Sunday, April 27, 2008


I'm working on a comparison of film and digital cameras which is turning into more of a book chapter than a blog post. I'll have to seriously abridge it for use here, so it'll be a while yet.

In the interests of procrastination, I looked through some online videos (no, not that kind) and found that the world is a more depressingly stupid place than even I had imagined.

This woman has a remarkably poor grasp of oratory skills, considering she is a teacher. She also has an artificial smile that is responsible for much teeth-grinding. Her appearance on the internet is a dentist's dream.

However, she makes some valid points once you get past her insistence that religion is the cure for all the world's ills. History tells us it's the cause of most of them but in a Freudian slip she admits that history should be deleted. Anyway, what she says about education is true. The current political oafs who run this country are so incompetent and corrupt that our once excellent education system is now in tatters.

I don't lecture to University students these days but when I did, I was appalled at how many of them were incapable of spelling simple words or of adding up a few numbers without a calculator. I taught as a lecturer for thirteen years. Those studying for HND at the start of those years had a better grasp of grammar, spelling and simple mathematics than those studying for postgraduate qualifications in the latter years. It's been three years since I last taught. I wonder if they still use words, or are they answering exam questions with cave paintings now?

This woman, this teacher, tells us why. Just don't look at her for too long or you'll hit the screen with something.

My favourite was the part where she describes attempting to teach children computing. The thing about computers is that they are absolutely literal.

If you can't spell it, the computer can't find it. In fifty years the Internet will be utterly useless because nobody will be able to spell any of the keywords stored on it.

Reminds me of an advert for a Beavis and Butthead game - 'a game starring two guys who can't even spell CD'.

There are far more than two now.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wall to wall stupid.

Reading the site in the last post, I came across an article on education and how, nowadays, there really isn't any. It reminded me of a few things.


When I was at school, the acceleration due to gravity was 9.8 metres per second per second. We had no calculators. Nowadays, I hear that children (with calculators but apparently without the capacity for thought) are taught that the value is 10 because 'it makes the sums easier'.

Take heart then. You have not gained weight. Your mass is the same but gravity has increased so you only appear to be heavier. Unfortunately the stupidity of the upcoming generation is not illusion.


A young shop assistant had trouble with her till and found it difficult to add up the items I had presented her with. I told her the total. She ignored me. When she finally made her till work and saw the total, her eyes widened so far I thought they might drop out.

She said 'How did you do that?'

I picked up my shopping and said 'By not being an idiot' and left the shop. I've never been back.


There is a Posh School in the town. The pupils are clearly taught the rudiments of arrogance, pomposity and self-importance since they have no concept of 'queue'. Waiting at the bus stop, I watched these hideous little bastards arrive and walk to the front of the queue where they congregated so as to block the pavement. I left the stop and walked the half-mile or so to the stop before this one, so I was seated and scowling when the uniformed uneducated swarmed aboard. One day they will all wear suits that are currently empty. They'll still be empty when these mindless idiots put them on.


While I'm on the subject of the weakness of our 'hard-man' young, I have noticed that the tougher they pretend to be, the more likely they are to take the bus for any distance more than ten yards. I have watched them ride over distances for which I, a considerably older individual, would not even consider using any transport other than legs. In fact, in many cases they could have walked to their destinations in less time than it took to wait for the bus. Pathetic. For the record, the distance I travel on the bus is 25 miles. It would take most of the day to walk there but I can still do it.


One more bus anecdote. Two stops from my usual disembarking point, I noticed a horde of schoolchildren waiting as the bus approached. Now, I don't like crowded buses and as it meant only a half-mile or so more to walk, I decided to get off here. The bus stopped. The door opened.

I was faced with a sea of faces that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that British education has absolutely no effect whatsoever. Wall to wall stupid. None seemed to grasp the (to me, at least) simple premise that if they moved out of the way, I could get off the bus and they could get on. It's not complicated, surely? Yet their atrophied minds could not grasp it. Eyes so blank you could write on them. Mouths hanging open like sideshow targets. It was tempting but I had nothing vile to throw.

I barged through them. One tried to trip me. His leg will heal in time, and he might have learned that not all adults are teachers, and therefore not all adults are worried about getting sacked if they hurt these wastes of space. As self-employed, only I can sack me and in my business, the penalty for putting a little reality into the life of a terminally cosseted weakling is to be forced to drink whisky and smoke a cigar. I have already done my penance. See, an adult leg is a little bit more powerful than a child's. Especially when you compare an adult who walks, with a child who takes the bus for a half-mile. An adult who cares to see the world rather than wander through in a daze can spot a trip attempt coming, and it just takes a small raising of the foot for a toecap to connect with an ankle. Pure accident, of course.

When I was a child, we damaged ourselves and each other in play. We shrugged it off and kept playing. Fights meant black eyes at the least. I recall many with closed-up eyes who just used the other one for a few weeks until it healed. I have not seen a child with so much as a bruise in many years. These children are not equipped to survive. They don't know what it's like to be hurt and they don't know how to keep going and cope with it when they are. I despise them, it's true, but I also recognise that it's not their fault. The PC world we live in has bubble-wrapped them. They think they are invincible because they've never been hurt. They think they never will be.

They are wrong. It will happen and they won't be able to deal with it when it does. Still, in our wonderful new world, they'll always be able to blame someone else for their failures.

I will never take a job as a teacher.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Better than me.

Hard to believe, I know, but there is someone out there who puts the arguments against those smug pustules that comprise the 'Politically Correct' movement more succintly that I ever could.
Here he is.

There's a lot on that site. It'll take time to read.

For those outside the UK, the 'Grauniad' is a reference to a UK newspaper called 'the Guardian', famous for its PC bleating and so politically correct they apparently employ a typesetter who can't spell.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The voices made me do it.

I’m in two minds about schizophrenia.

Okay, that was a cheap shot, but it’s true all the same. I’ve been in two minds about the subject for a long time. What sparked me off again was this New Scientist article.

Studies are showing links between clustered abnormal events in human society (such as spates of suicides) and variations in the Earth’s magnetic fields. The results so far suggest there might be a link.

There are animals, particularly birds, which use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation. There is, so far, nothing to suggest that humans can detect magnetic fields. However, that’s not to say we can’t – it simply means there is no evidence of a conscious detection of magnetic fields by humans. I’ve never come across anyone who could close their eyes, hold out their hands and tell when there’s a magnet close by. But then, do birds use their magnetic sense consciously? Do they think ‘Well, that way is magnetic north so I have to fly at fifteen degrees to that line,’ or is it unconscious? Does it just ‘feel like the right way to go’? I suspect the latter.

Perhaps the link between odd behaviour and magnetism is spurious. Perhaps it is real. Time, and accumulated studies, will tell.

It brought back to me just how little we really know about the human mind. Oh, sceptics will come along and say ‘We know an awful lot, and things like this can’t happen’ but they, strangely enough, have never studied the subject. They are right, in a way. We do know an awful lot. But there’s far more unknown than known. There is no sense in saying ‘can’t happen’ without looking in to the matter. That’s not science.

Science does not say ‘That can never happen’. Science gives an answer along the lines of ‘We tested it hundreds of times, and it didn’t happen once. So it’s unlikely to happen in the future’. The statements sound similar but there’s a world of difference between them.

Anyway, back to the schizophrenia. It’s a badly misused and wildly misdiagnosed illness, to the extent that some psychiatrists have proposed scrapping the term altogether. So many symptoms get lumped in there that ‘schizophrenia’ might be a suite of disorders rather than just the one. But that’s not my problem.

One of the symptoms of schizophrenia, as it stands, is hearing disembodied or internal voices. The cure is, of course, drugs to stop the voices.

Take the drugs, the voices stop. Does that prove the voices weren’t real?

Scientifically, no it does not. It proves the drug stopped the patient hearing those voices. If you want to call me names (crank, nutcase and looney are favourites) and I choose to close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears, then I’ve ‘cured’ the voice that’s calling me names. I can’t see you. I can’t hear you. Ergo, by exactly the same logic, you no longer exist. Bye now.

Take the other point of view, that of the patient. Voices come from the air or inside their head. They have no idea who or what is speaking. Naturally, they’re terrified and will behave erratically. They might give in and do what the voices urge them to do—harm themselves or others, behave in a violent or inappropriate manner in public or whatever. They might start answering the voices, muttering to themselves and carrying on a conversation.

If that happened to you, you’d assume you’d cracked up and you might seek medical help. They’ll give you drugs and the voices will stop. Again, does that prove the voices weren’t real? Again, no. It proves the drug worked to stop the voices coming through. The result says nothing about the reality or otherwise of the voices. It just means they’ve gone. That might be good enough, if you’re the one hearing them.

I’ve never seen a real case of ‘spirit possession’ and I find it hard to believe that an invading spirit could totally subjugate the body’s current resident. I’m not saying it can’t happen. Just that I don’t, at the moment, think it likely.

However, I’ve said many times that ghosts can’t physically hurt anyone. They have no solid form so they can’t whack you. If we discount possession for the moment, that leaves a malicious spirit one main weapon. Persuasion.

They can, if they can make you hear them, nag and nag and nag until you do what they want just to stop them yakking. It won’t stop them, because just like living bullies, once they’ve scored a point they keep on going.

There are fake mediums and there are real ones. The fakes know they are fakes. The real ones don’t always know they are real. Just because someone sees and/or hears ghosts does not mean they will immediately think ‘Hey, I’m a medium’. Most likely they will think ‘I’m going mad’.

A malicious spirit can exploit this confusion and set to work to drive the hapless victim to terrible and ridiculous acts. Naturally they can only do this to those who can hear them but who don’t know what they are hearing.

So, are the drugs curing an imaginary voice, or are they blocking the reception of a real voice? Currently, there’s no way to tell unless the voice pestering one patient leaves when that patient is ‘cured’ and produces exactly the same effect in someone else. Easy? Nope. Most such patients report much the same sort of voices, telling them much the same sort of thing anyway.

Doesn’t that support the idea that these might be real spirit voices? Well, not exactly, because the impulses (attack, self-harm etc) might come from some basic corner of the primitive part of our minds. It might be the same for everyone, and the patients are imagining the voices to rationalise their actions.

It might be that the voices heard by such patients are real spirit voices. It might be that the voices are imaginary. It might be that some are one kind, some another. It might be an entirely different explanation altogether. There is, at present, no clear method of differentiating. The drugs stop the voices, that’s all we know. We’re not even sure how the drugs work at a neuronal level.

So I’m still in two minds about schizophrenia, but perhaps studies like the one mentioned above will help with that. One day.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Maths and logic and clever manipulation.

1 UK gallon = 4.54609 litres

1 US (liquid) gallon = 3.785411784 litres.

Currently, 1 UK pound = 1.98 US dollar.

The price of one litre of petrol in the UK is just over a pound. Call it two dollars a litre for simplicity and you can find out why I use the bus more often than my car.

Currently, there is a refinery where the employees are threatening to strike. One refinery, not all of them. Something about cuts to the pension plan – I don’t work there so I don’t know the details. The strike will be for two days, but the refinery will have to shut down and it takes a month to get it running again. Let’s call a month 30 days to keep the sums easy.

This refinery processes 200,000 barrels a day. A barrel is currently over 100 dollars. That’s 20,000,000 dollars a day, or 600,000,000 dollars for the month in lost money for the refinery, over a two day strike.

I wonder how much they save by cutting the worker’s pension plan? More than six hundred million dollars (three hundred million pounds)? Somehow I doubt that. So why is it happening?

People are queuing at petrol stations all over the place, blank eyed and chanting ‘Must…fill…car’. Idiots. Get rid of your ten-miles-per-gallon moron-mobiles and buy something that works more efficiently. My car isn’t small. It’s an estate (station wagon to the rebel colonists) so I can carry loads of junk. It still gets over 40 miles to the gallon. Nobody in the UK needs a car capable of climbing Everest. But that’s a different tirade.

Several petrol stations are out of petrol already. The queues are something to see, all those idling engines working to empty fuel tanks just so they can be refilled at a pound a litre.

Farmer’s fuel suppliers have introduced rationing. They claim they are running short already. Eh? The strike has yet to materialise and it might yet be called off. The refinery isn’t closed, so there’s been no interruption in supply. There can’t be a shortage until the supply stops, since farmers will only get what these companies are willing to sell them.

Right, that’s the maths. The strike will cost the refinery around six hundred million dollars, far more than they could possibly save on a cut in the pension scheme. People are causing their own short-term shortages by panic buying, but that can’t apply to the farm supplies because they are controlled by the suppliers. Yet they claim to be running out before the shutdown happens.

Where’s the logic? There isn’t any.

Unless it’s a con trick. Watch those fuel prices rise in the coming weeks.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Burn the witch!

The Witchfinder must be chuckling in whatever afterlife he went to.

A change in UK law means that psychics can be prosecuted for claiming to be psychic. The onus is no longer on the prosecutor to show that they are a fake, the onus is now on the accused to prove that they are genuine. Somewhat of a departure from the 'innocent until proven guilty' format we are used to here.

Strangely, this does not mean that the Pope will have to prove he really does represent God, nor that imams will have to prove the reality of Allah before they are allowed to preach, nor that physicists will have to prove the Higgs boson exists before spending vast sums of taxpayer's money to look for it, nor that politicians will have to prove they have a brain before taking office.

No, these laws are set up specifically to prevent psychics claiming to be psychic. Well, there are an awful lot of frauds out there who should be dealt with in the most severe way possible, but among the chaff there might yet be some wheat.

Can we find it? Well, let's see. Under the new laws, if you want to express them with utter pedantry, if I were to post a photo here that I claimed showed a ghost, you could bring a prosecution against me. It won't get too far because I don't ask for money but by the letter of the law, I'd be claiming a psychic phenomenon and therefore liable to be hauled into court. The case might fail but the damage to credibility will already be done. Score one to the witchfinders.

You won't have to prove I faked the photo. I'd have to prove I didn't. Proving a fake can be done. Proving not-a-fake is impossible because it will always come back to 'He could have done it by some means we didn't detect'. The same is true of any psychic phenomenon. A magician can replicate it, so the psychic must have done it the same way. Nobody can see him do it because he's so quick, but that's how he did it allright. We just didn't spot it.

As with the Inquisition, as with the Witchfinders, once accused you are guilty by default. There is no way to win such a case. There never was.

Prepare for malicious prosecutions brought against anyone the sceptics don't like. Ladies, get rid of any black cats you might own and concrete over that herb garden now. For God's sake, don't cackle or you're done for.

And if you haven't read up on the 1600's, best do so now. We're just about to go back there.

There might even be a civil war. Plague, anyone?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Science and the Holy Books.

I stand in the middle ground on this, which means I get cat-calls from both sides. I’m quite used to choruses of ‘yah boo hiss resign’ so chorus away. I’ve had plenty of practice at acidic response.

See, I don’t care. I don’t care whether the air I breathe was put here by God, by trees, by bacteria, by algae, or whether it was farted over the planet by a passing space goblin. It’s there. I can breathe it. That’s enough for me. Where it all came from is the domain of physicists, chemists, botanists etc. I can’t study every scientific discipline and won’t try.

I don’t care whether there’s a God or not. If I do get to meet him one day, I have a few remarks to make about the logic of his creation and he won’t like it. If there isn’t one I’ll just have to find someone else to shout at. Either way, it doesn’t matter to me.

By now, there are religious folk with their fingers digging into the arms of their chairs. Don’t do that. You’ll hurt yourself. Those who are praying for me, stop it. It won’t help. Besides, he’s not going to let me die any time soon. I’m someone he can do without meeting just yet.

This is not to say I’m a Dawkinsite antireligious fanatic either. Those scientists are denying the existence of something because they just don’t want it to be so. They have done zero research on this subject and there’s no point anyway. Science cannot disprove the existence of God. Never could, and will never be able to. It’s a subject science should leave alone because it simply cannot be studied using the scientific way.

Over on Tom Sheepandgoats’ blog, he’s having a go at evolution, using the famous Piltdown Man fake as an example. True, the scientists involved should have known better. There was nothing to suggest any colonisation of the British Isles at the time Piltdown Man was supposed to be around. They should have smelled a rat straight away, but they didn’t. Or maybe they did but decided to go with it. Prestige is a powerful thing, and has led many a sensible man astray, both in science and religion.

Now, evolution happens. Has happened and is still happening. Can’t be helped, there it is. The development of many animals can be traced back through the fossil record – some well, some not so well. Except one.


All those early hominids, it turns out, were other species. As far as I’m aware (and I state now that evolution isn’t my field of research), the human species has not so far been definitively linked to a specific pre-human ancestor.

Science will say “Just because we haven’t found it yet, doesn’t mean it’s not there”.

True. But why apply that argument to one unknown and the opposite to another? Is that science?

Religion will say “God did it”.

Well, science can’t prove he didn’t at the moment, but science will continue to look for the link.

This is the ‘God of the Gaps’ argument. The term comes from science and is meant as a derisory comment on the ‘God did it’ statement – any gaps in scientific knowledge ‘must have been God’ by religious argument. Religion can’t prove God did it.

BUT science can’t prove he didn’t.

In that case, both arguments must be equally valid until one is disproved. Some scientists are purple-faced by now, I’m sure, and some are laughing and saying ‘Oh yes, the flying spaghetti monster did it’.

A ridiculous extension of the argument, but from which side? Is the flying spaghetti monster theory less valid than the other two?

Well, from the correct, strictly impersonal view of science, all theories are valid until they are knocked out one by one, or one is proven (PROVEN, not preferred) to be correct. You can just as well say ‘Aliens put us here’ or ‘We spontaneously generated from dust-bunnies’ or ‘Humans were the fruit of the Idiot Tree’ (certainly a viable argument in some cases).

Some theories can be disproven in minutes, of course, but when faced with an unknown then all theories that cannot be immediately discarded must be considered. In science, it’s not good enough to say ‘I prefer my theory so I’m just going to deride the other guy’s so mine gets accepted by default’. Religious fundamentalism does exactly this. So does scientific fundamentalism.

If science can prove beyond all doubt that humans evolved from a specific ancestor, does that utterly discredit religion? Does it prove there is no God? Does it really? How?

Evolution doesn’t prove there is no God. Neither does the Big Bang. Neither do all those dinosaur skeletons, carbon dating, the fact the human eye is wired the wrong way round and squid have better ones. Science has proved, to my satisfaction at least, that the Earth is far older than six thousand years. Does that prove there’s no God? Well, no. It proves that whoever worked out the biblical timeline wasn’t right. Or maybe he wasn't so wrong. It only goes back as far as Adam, remember, and humans are recent. He’s still out, but not ‘age of the Earth’ out. Only ‘first appearance of modern humans’ out and that’s not nearly so bad when you consider all he had to work with was one book.

If there are any still out there praying for my immortal soul, stop it now or when I die I’ll come visit and you don’t want that. Those who think I work for Satan can be assured that I don’t care about him either. He’s not all he’s cracked up to be, even if he exists.

Why doesn’t evolution disprove God? Well, the key is in the ‘intelligent designer’ label. A really intelligent designer would realise that his creations will have to live in wildly different and changing environments. They have to get through an Ice Age or two. They have to live in permanent snow, and in baking desert. They have to be able to adapt. So he’d give all his animals the chance to change, to develop, to keep life going in whatever way they can. He would allow, no, he would encourage evolution. So science can prove evolution, but religion can still claim ‘God did it’, even without the gap.

Humans, though? Did we appear here as we are now, unchanging in any serious way since the first human set foot on Earthly soil and promptly stubbed his toe on a rock? Who can say? Science can’t, not yet. Religion does, but can’t prove it. Stalemate.

Humans have a habit of changing the environment to suit them rather than the other way around. Human evolution is held in check by humans. Live somewhere with no water? Well, we could do it the hard way and evolve into a water-retaining species or we could just dig a well or lay a pipe. We don’t evolve because we don’t need to. Natural selection doesn’t work on a species capable of adjusting, removing or simply ignoring the selective pressures.

It’s still stalemate on whether humans evolved from an earlier species or whether God did it. That situation might change but until it does, science should shut up and work on it. Declaring the result before getting the data does not improve scientific credibility. And remember, there’s no detailed description of Adam in the Bible. He might not have looked exactly like us. Maybe God ‘adjusted’ him too.

In the meantime, the argument is no more than ‘Oh no he didn’t’ ‘Oh yes he did’ and has no conclusion in sight. Each side tries to shout down the other in this expanded playground fight.

For now, both arguments have equal validity from a pure science standpoint because neither are proven and neither are disproven.

Shouting won’t change that. Research might.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A new one.

In the film 'Men in Black', Tommy Lee Jones gets all his weird info from the tabloid hack-rags. It's not that different in real life. Why? Well, the sensationalist papers are the most likely to print this stuff. Trouble is, they don't employ any kind of filtering so every weird tale from every weird teller gets through.

The first time I looked at this I thought 'Bah. Photoshop'. Yet reading on, it seems the photo was taken with a disposable camera and the image also appears on the negative.

There are ways around that, of course. Two slide projectors can produce a composite image, which you can then photograph. Or, a double exposure with the boy standing against a dark background. Harder to line up but not too hard.

I'd doubt the double exposure since those disposable cameras can't do that. Unless it was faulty. The two-slide-projector deal can be spotted on an original photo but not on a newspaper or Internet reproduction.

Now, I haven't seen the original and haven't even seen an image of the negative so I'll have to take that part on trust for now. Assuming, then, that there is a negative which also shows this picture, we're back to double exposure/double projector as a possible means of faking it.

Neither of those explanations work for the image reproduced here. On a negative, as on a projector screen, the light areas are the parts projected. Where it's dark, it means the light is blocked or there's little or no reflected light to photograph. In either case, it's the light areas that produce the image, not the dark ones.

So if you took a photo of the boy against a dark background, and projected it onto a screen along with the background, the boy's image would overlay the gate. He wouldn't appear to be behind it. The same would be true of a double exposure.

Looks good so far BUT... it is possible to buy devices that will take a computer generated image and put it onto a slide. Or a negative. These devices aren't rare - in fact, when I was lecturing we used them to put graphs and diagrams onto slides for teaching. That was before Powerpoint, of course. It could have been done that way.

I'm still very skeptical on this one for two reasons.

One, the photo isn't 'of' anything. It has no subject and gives the impression of being produced as a background. Okay, people often take random shots to use up the end of a film, so it could be one of those.

Two - and this is the big one - look at the alignment. Check the top of the gate against the posts surrounding the trees. The gate isn't leaning as much as it appears to be so the photo is tilted. Looking at the horizon, and especially at the houses, there's at least a five degree tilt here.

The boy is nearly upright. Unless he was leaning to his left while the photo was taken, he wasn't in that scene when it was photographed.

It looks good, but I'm tending towards a decision of 'no' for this one. I'd like to see the originals before dismissing it but on the basis of what I can see here, I'm not convinced.

Gene genies.

There's a story going around about Russian scientists who have worked out what 'junk DNA' does.

Junk DNA is what you might call moulding flash, leftovers, spares. It doesn't do anything that anyone's been able to determine. There's an awful lot of it.

These Russian scientists have 'proved' that this junk DNA does everything from telepathy to faith healing.

So why don't I believe it?

DNA doesn't actually do anything. It codes for proteins, and that's all. It's the instruction book for the cell. The proteins made from this template can be enzymes or parts of cell structures, but the DNA itself doesn't do anything.

Expecting DNA to be active on its own is just like sitting on the instruction manual for a car and expecting to go somewhere. DNA isn't active. It's the book that tells you how to build and fix the vehicle, it's not the vehicle itself.

Another reason I don't believe it is that the article is dated 2005, but none of the things it claims to have achieved have ever appeared. None of the examples of paranormal events given in the article have been shown to involve DNA. There's no logical reason to assume DNA does anything aside from determining the shape, function and various colours of your body. DNA is purely in the physical world.

Changing your DNA will not allow you to change into a werewolf. It's more likely to cause cancer. To keep the car analogy, if you take the manual out of a Ford and replace it with a manual from a Lexus, your car won't change into a Lexus. All that will happen is this: the next time you try to fix your Ford using your Lexus manual, you'll break it.

These Russians might be real scientists, I don't know. If they are, then they are proof that we still have a healthy population of mad ones.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Breakfast in the ruins.

But not yet.

These wrecked walls were once a one-roomed cottage, of the type popular in the 13th-15th centuries (and among the poor, for quite some time after that). I haven't fixed a date for this one but its construction is similar to Bridgealehouse which stands nearby, and to Hallforest Castle, a few miles away. Bridgealehouse was used as a courtroom from 1690, so it's likely to be older than that. It might have been standing - and occupied - during the Jacobite rebellion. It might have been flattened at that time!
I think clicking on the pictures brings up a bigger image. Sometimes that works.

At some point, a curved end section was added, possibly a kitchen. Some windows and a door have been filled in with the same kind of stone. There's not much here and wandering around in the dark will be difficult. In the cold damp weather we have at the moment, it would be a miserable experience indeed.

Potential problems include a nearby railway line, a main road (both sources of vibration) and a large rabbit population - a constant source of rustling grass. There are few houses nearby, but there are enough that any recorded voices will have to be carefully scrutinised. Radios, CD players, and people calling for children and dogs might end up on tape.

There is, at least, very little electromagnetic interference here. Street lights are some distance away and the house has never had power lines connected.

All I need now is the right night. Preferably soon, since in the summer months it never really gets dark here.

Then I'll have breakfast in the ruins. Roast rabbit, if they annoy me.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I've been faked!

So many times I have railed about fakery and how it damages serious paranormal investigation. So many times I've shouted about the 'debunking' which is nothing of the kind, just a demonstration of how things could be faked. Duh. We knew that. We know there are truckloads of fakes cashing in on the paranormal. Proving how they do it still doesn't make everyone a fake.

Well, now I've been faked. Me.

A seller on Ebay is selling copyrighted materials through that site. Including copies of 'Ghost Hunting for the Sensible Investigator', although he's misspelled the title. Seems he bought a download version from Lulu, printed and bound it and posted it for sale. A few have bought it. Thanks to Beth Brown (comment on previous post) for pointing this out.

I don't know why anyone's buying his pirated copies. He includes a link to the book on Lulu, where you can get an original for the same price or a download for pennies. Yet some have bought it.

Should I be furious or flattered? That little book surely isn't worth the effort and the risk of legal action involved in pirating it?

Well, I never expected to make much on the book. He's not costing me shedloads of money. I'd be inclined to say 'the hell with it' and leave him alone, but I'm not the only one he's doing this to. Some of the others are, quite justifiably, enraged by this. Some ghosthunting groups depend on income from books like this to help finance their investigations.

So, more for those than for myself, I'll have to report to Ebay that they have a seller trafficking copyrighted materials through their site. It's up to them to do something about that. They're usually pretty quick to dodge potential lawsuits.

Sorry, matey, but what you're doing is illegal. Best stop before one of the authors you're ripping off gets litiginous on you.

Even so, it's nice to know someone thinks I'm worth copying. Makes me feel all Rolex inside.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Miserable, and a little disturbed.

Today it rained. It's better than snow although now it's dark the rain has turned to snow again.

It was that half-hearted misty rain. Not proper rain, the sort you can justify putting a hat on for. No, it was just constant drip-drip-drip of fine, soft rain that gradually permeates everything until you're soaked before you realise it. Miserable rain.

So I cheered myself up by buying a camera. Well, there's no point lugging around the 'proper' cameras when it's like this. I bought a small digital, but with 10 megapixels so it can produce decent pictures. It fits in a pocket. I could have dug out an old camera but that just didn't seem right.

On another note, I was outside in the drizzle, scowling around a cigar today. I rent a little lab sometimes in a local university. Currently I'm working on an alternative type of motion detector but more of that another time.

This time, a couple of forensic science students joined me in smoker's purgatory. They were too cheerful for my liking. Their conversation disturbed me a lot.

Apparently, they've been told 'stick with the evidence markers'. What this means is that once they reach a conclusion, they have to stay with it. Even if they realise it's wrong, they can't change it.

I don't mind admitting to being horrified by this, and more so by the casual and cheery way they discussed it. So if I'm ever dragged into court for something I didn't do because forensic evidence points to me, then even if the forensic officer realises they've made a mistake, they've been taught not to admit it.

It gives the illusion of infallibility, something most scientists try to achieve but with dire consequences in this case. The perfect record of the forensics office must be upheld even if an innocent man goes to jail--and even if the forensics guys know he's innocent!

The students accepted this with casual ease, which worried me. What the hell are we producing here? Another Inquisition?

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Kintore connection.

I realise I haven't mentioned why I'm so interested in this particular area.

The town now called Kintore stands on an area that's been continuously settled since prehistoric times. Some of the locals look like direct descendants in defiance of evolution, but that's another story. The Romans visited, and there's still a pizza shop here so some cultural remnant hangs on.
There are a few links to historical sites, but this one has no pop-up ads so it's safe.

If you've seen the American Declaration of Independence, there's a 'James Wilson' among the signatures, I believe. See the bottom paragraph of that page. Little Kintore has had a disproportionate effect on world affairs.

I can't find any web pictures of the ruined cottage--not really surprising since there are much more interesting things to photograph around here--but it's looking increasingly as though the cottage was ruined, not built, in the 18th century. Possibly during the Jacobite battles in the region. It's much older than I thought, in fact the way it's built is very like the structure of nearby Hallforest castle, built in the 13th/14th century.

I'll get a better picture of the cottage when the weather eases.

It's back.

Global warming? Where's my share?

I have a location in mind, but it has no roof and is surrounded by very tall and very wet grass. It's an old cottage, looks to date to the 18th century or earlier. I have a few photos but they were all taken at dusk and aren't very good. I've noticed that photos seem darker on Blogger than on my screen so you wouldn't see much.

Nearby is a small hut that dates to the second world war, but that has no door or windows.

Since we have snow, and the threat of more (shouldn't someone point out to the weather that it's now April?) I'm not too keen to spend a night in the open.

There's dedication, and then there's crazed fanaticism. I'll stop at dedication.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The first of the day?

There is an article on New Scientist's site about poltergeists.

Whenever I see this kind of subject in that kind of venue, I have conflicting feelings. One side says 'It's going to be another ridicule' and another says 'Maybe they're taking it seriously'.

I am also conscious of the date. It's April First. The article is timestamped 00:01, 1st April.

With that in mind, take a look at the physicists' explanation of the poltergeist phenomenon.

First impression - it's even crazier than the paranormal explanation.

Serious, or April fool? You decide.