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.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


One thing I like about the UK is that it's really not very big. If pushed, I could walk from one end to the other in a month or two. I'd pass a town or at least a village every day so I wouldn't starve either. Side to side is, in most parts, a week at most and that's not even rushing. The thin bit, between Glasgow (West coast) and Edinburgh (East coast) is around 50 miles. Two days walking with lots of rest stops.

Not so America. That place is huge. Unlike the UK, it has desert regions where walking would present a very real risk of death. It has massive areas of woodland where you could get lost, die, and never be found. There, you'd have to have transport.

But at what cost? If this is to be believed, flying will soon be dependent on allowing yourself to be fitted with a zap-o-matic wrist band. I don't like the sound of that.

I also don't like the thought that such ideas don't take too long to cross the Atlantic these days.

Fortunately, I don't like flying either.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Idiot supreme.

People are stupid.

I've said it many times, yet I take no pleasure in finding, almost every day, that it's true.

This one takes the biscuit.

The whole biscuit, and also the green cheese....

Friday, July 04, 2008

How about now?

Three (including me) have seen something that matches. Let's try a little closer. I've trimmed the pictures to the parts that include (I think) the most interesting bits. See anything human-shaped here?

In this one, three people (including me) independently found a sitting figure. We also found others, but aren't all agreed on all of those.

These are the same photos as before (you can download the previous ones to check that) although I've increased the brightness by 10% on the second one here.

Enough clues for now. Feel free to download these and fiddle with them.