Monday, June 28, 2010

Electric Smoking again.

I'm still Electrosmoking rather than real-smoking. The benefits - No ash. No ashtray. No lingering smoke. It's considerably cheaper and best of all, no cough. The only downside is that it's not quite the same as a really good cigar and sometimes I miss that. I suppose I could allow myself a real one once in a while. National No Smoking day, perhaps. I'll consider it next time.

However, Electrosmoke has no particulates, no tar, none of the nasty chemicals at all and in fact, no smoke either. It's steam with a little nicotine in it, and nicotine is just about as harmful as caffeine, ie - not. Not unless you take in massive amounts at once. None of the nasty stuff is present in Electrosmoke, and nothing is burning. The vapour is produced by a little heater and a 3.6 volt battery.

I don't consider myself an ex-smoker and I won't be calling myself a 'vaper' because I'm still a smoker. I'm still enraged at the ludicrous claims made by the antismokers (who still hate me anyway so I might as well keep the 'smoker' tag) and I am still absolutely opposed to the North Korean style of control these people want to exert over everyone.

So I'm a smoker who has moved with the times and now does it without all that messy ash and fire. It's better for night time photography too - the steam vanishes within seconds instead of hanging around on a still night and getting caught up in photos.

I'd recommend any smoker try one of these things. If you smoke cigarettes you can get a trial set here. Not everyone takes to them, some find them just too different from tobacco, but if it works for you then you can smoke without any risk at all. Sure, there have been attempts already to claim that they 'harm non-smokers' but if you believe that there is a risk in second hand steam, then there really is no hope for you and you'd be better to sell your brain to someone who can make proper use of it. Second-hand smoke is touted with no proof at all. Second hand steam?

(Those are UK company links. They sell overseas, I think, but you might get a local supplier if you run a quick search.)

No particulates and no chemicals apart from flavoured steam and nicotine. You can get any flavour you like. I don't just mean cigar/cigarette/pipe. You can get apple and strawberry and coffee and absinthe and even roast chicken flavours for a really surreal smoke. Many flavours are available.

You can also get all these flavours nicotine-free so all you get from the device is flavoured steam. Just as the non-drinker can join in the party with alcohol-free wine and the vegetarian can join in the barbecue with vegetarian sausages and burgers, the non-smoker can now have something that looks like smoking but is nicotine-free, tar-free, in fact smoke-free. Just flavoured steam.

Whenever I say that, I get 'Oh, but it will start people smoking'. Will it? Does the veggie burger make the vegetarian crave a rare steak? Does the alcohol-free wine make the non-drinker demand whisky? If there is no nicotine and no tobacco at all in there, what can they become addicted to?

There is a certain terror attached to smoking these days. All you need do is put a cigar on a table - even a fake cigar like mine - and people break out in a sweat. They seem as scared as if I had placed a bundle of dynamite there with a timer ticking down. It's because it's never been about the health. It is, and has always been, about social control.

The smoking ban caused the invention of Electrosmoking which is totally harmless. There is a risk in real smoking, that's undeniable, but it's only a risk to the smoker. Smokers can eradicate that risk by switching to Electrosmoking or they can reduce the risk by switching to part-Electrosmoking. It would be like cutting down without cutting down. It would be like an alcoholic replacing part of his daily intake with alcohol-free drinks. The risk can be reduced to negligible.

The antismoking groups don't like Electrosmoking because it looks like smoking and that is what they want to stop. Also, they get a lot of their funding from the makers of patches and gum that are useless. It's not health that drives them. It's control. Control over smokers, but more than that, control over a huge mob of antismoking zealots who will believe any old rubbish because it suits them.

Electrosmoking works for me. It won't work for everyone. It is a completely harmless form of smoking and it has been banned in several places already - not because of any real harm, but simply because it looks like smoking.

As long as the antismoking Nazis exist, I am a smoker and will remain so.

Just... a high-tech one.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The world behind the shed.

In the absence of investigations, garden repairs continue. This year's solstice was a grey washout but today there was a big yellow thing in the sky for a while. I seem to recall seeing it before...

The most terrifying part of the garden is Behind the Shed. There is room to get in there and paint both shed and fence - but not without getting covered in paint - and that space is deadly. It's where all the junk goes, all those things that might be useful but never are. They can't be seen from anywhere in the garden so there is no barrier to their buildup over time.

Therefore, Behind the Shed has been neglected for years because to paint and repair in there means clearing out the junk first.

This year, with nothing better to do, I have removed all the junk, patched and painted the shed and fence and it all looked great until I put the junk back. Well, not the stuff that had actually rotted, but the stuff that might be useful one day.

Realistically, I won't even look behind there again for at least two years.

The clouds are breaking here and hopefully it will be safe to risk staying out overnight very soon. I have done something that will guarantee it won't rain for a while. I've installed a rainwater barrel.

Investigations soon. I hope.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The human becomes inhuman.

There are fewer and fewer reports of ghosts lately. This is probably due, in large part, to the weather. A few days from Midsummer and I have plants dying of the cold, so anyone who wants to claim the world is warming had better brace themselves. I'm likely to get vociferous.

In the cold, staying out all night on the off-chance of getting a result is not an appealing prospect. Few are willing to shiver, only to find the scratching sounds they recorded were a mouse or rat, the 'voice' was just the wind and the lights were some reflective surface a mile or so away. Good results are rare and take persistence and it's hard to be persistent when you can't feel your fingers. No wonder so many take solace in those out-of-focus dust particles and mice in the walls.

There is also the matter of the economic state of the country which is such that homeless people are richer than the government. They might have nothing but at least they don't owe more money than exists. Many people are in constant fear of losing their jobs and their homes. Distracted people with heads full of worries rarely see the lamppost they are about to walk into, never mind a ghost.

Plenty of reason, then, for the general public to ignore hauntings or any attempt at communication by a spirit. This does not explain the cries of 'Photoshop!' as soon as any photo appears. No investigation, no study of the image, just shout 'Photoshop!' and the debunking is considered done. Yes, in many cases, it is Photoshop but these can be spotted. Images dating from before Photoshop are not so easily dismissed, yet the cry is the same. Even nature photos, dramatic pictures of an eagle in flight, say, are met with this cry. Why so cynical?

This might be the reason.

People don't interact with nature any more. When they ignore the normal, how can we expect them to pay any attention to the paranormal? If they don't believe a photographer who captures images of an eagle taking a bird in flight, they certainly will not believe an image of someone who's dead.

I have a mouse in my garden. I have mentioned this to people locally and they are horrified. They want me to kill it. I refuse because it's not doing me any harm. If it was in the house, chewing electrical wiring and eating holes in food packets it would be a different matter. It's not. It's in the garden, where, as far as I am concerned, it has a perfect right to be.

As do the bumble-bees who have set up home in my compost bin. I have been told I must kill them in case they sting someone. They won't sting anyone unless they are threatened. Bumble-bees are not vicious, not like wasps (who are top of the kill list, even above slugs). I have fruit trees. Bumble-bees are welcome. I can tolerate not using the compost bin for a year. Bumble-bees only live one year, then they produce queens and males who leave and mate. The males die, the queens hibernate and all of the original colony dies. So I'll get my compost bin back at the end of the year and in the meantime, my plum and apple trees are already showing the beginnings of fruit.

Against a six-foot fence stands some bamboo. This has surprised me by surviving several winters including this last one, which seems to have not quite left yet. I pulled it back to paint the fence but let go quickly. On top of the fence post, behind the bamboo, is a blackbirds' nest. They've probably finished with it already but I'll leave it there for now, just in case. It'll be the cheeky blackbird who has often faced me down (and lost) for ownership of the garden. He's almost a pet, that one. I've noticed a couple of young ones about lately, along with young sparrows by the dozen and a load of tiny bluetits who seem to fly like hummingbirds. There are regular visits from a robin, some wrens, three wood-pigeons, starlings and a host of others.

I haven't seen a heron this year but that'll be because I filled in the dead pond. Not that they ever managed to get any fish after the first time. I installed a net. I have nothing against herons but there are two rivers nearby. They can fish there.

I wonder how many could even name these birds now? How many would eat apples from a tree? How many recognise any kind of fruit if it's hanging from a branch? I know of several local public paths where blackberries and raspberries grow wild. Nobody seems to touch them. That's fine by me, I can get a few pounds of free fruit every year.

There was a time when you had to compete. You had to watch the wild fruit until it ripened, knowing others were watching too, then it was a race to get it. You also had to pick out the insect grubs before consumption even though it didn't really matter too much because they aren't poisonous. We don't have many dangerous animals in the UK as long as you know what you're picking up.

These days, hardly anyone bothers. I've seen such fruit rotted on the plant. I've seen woodland floors strewn with hazelnuts and crabapples. What I never see any more, as the author of that article says, are children turning over logs to find lizards or picking hazelnuts or setting up a makeshift camp or building a mud dam across a stream or even climbing trees. Health and Safety forbids it all. As children, we would not have listened.

Modern children would probably not listen either but their parents are brainwashed into believing that there's a paedophile on every street corner and that anything not cellophane-wrapped is deadly. Children in this country are developing rickets - rickets! - because they are not getting outside any more. They are becoming obese and every official idiot is demanding something be done but in the old days, when we ignored the official idiots, children weren't fat. Well, a few were, but genetics could account for that. Most of us were active and fairly slim.

We ate gooseberries and blackcurrants off the bush. We climbed for crabapples and nuts. We came home covered in mud with jars of lizards or tadpoles to keep as pets. My father once set up an old tin bath in the backyard, filled it with water and stones and we watched the tadpoles grow into frogs. I once came home with a toad who lived in our back garden for a while and kept the slugs under control. There's a hedgehog who patrols my garden now and performs much the same purpose. You don't have to control nature. You just have to let it control itself. It's been doing the job for a very long time and it doesn't need our help.

In the modern world, if it hasn't been sanitised by a supermarket, people won't eat it. They want it on a plastic tray or they don't believe it's food. It also has to be guaranteed to be free of any of those 'dangerous' bacteria that are easily killed by proper cooking because they are too lazy for proper cooking.

People have disconnected from the natural world. They don't even believe in the natural so how will they cope with the supernatural? There's only one way to cope - to dismiss it entirely. If they insist that a photo of an eagle catching its prey is Photoshopped, then how can they possibly accept what cannot be so readily seen?

When people lived on the land and were among nature every day, the paranormal was accepted as normal. Now people live in concrete and plastic and the paranormal is an entertainment show on late-night TV, with some pretend psychics and pretend hauntings to tittilate the masses.

Who is right? Those who were in tune with the real world, or those who aren't?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The dead ghosts.

I haven't been online for a while because there hasn't been much to say. The sky is slate grey from horizon to horizon and featureless. Rain is spontaneous and unpredictable so investigation is pointless.

Instead I've been wondering about things. There are six billion people on the planet now. There are an awful lot of dead ones stretching back over the ages. Where are all the ghosts? We should see at least a dozen each by now.

Another thing I wonder is when did it start? Are there Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal ghosts? I haven't heard of any. Australopithecene hauntings are unheard of. At some point, we either changed from an animal to another type of creature or the religious are right.

Sceptics are guffawing already but last week's New Scientist insists that we are not as other animals. We are not only aware, we are aware of being aware. If we are special, then the question must be 'why?' If we are not special, then why does science regard humanity as better than dogs? If we can have a lucid dream then why cannot a cat or a pig or a duck-billed platypus? Is it because we are much more spiritual than other animals? Why? If the word 'spiritual' gets the sceptic muscles twitching, then what word would you prefer? Either we are just another mammal or we are not. Which do you want? One or the other. You can't have both and switch between them depending on the situation.

Either we contain a soul or spirit, call it what you want, that carries on existing after we die, or we don't. The evidence I have seen but cannot irrefutably prove suggests we do but then why are they not all still here? Where are they?

Most religions say that there is a heaven and/or hell where spirits go. Catholics have made up levels of hell and a new place called Limbo that isn't in any religious text, but then Catholics do tend to get carried away with this sort of thing. Those spirits who are lost remain here. I have no evidence at all for a heaven or hell but then the ghosts I've seen won't have been to either of them - because none come back. So I can't discount that.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there are no ghosts, only demonic spirits who can pretend to be human ghosts. One I know locally, who is a self-employed painter (canvas painting, not decorator painting) will not paint any subject that includes a graveyard. It might provoke the nasties he believes hang around there. That's possible. Faced with something ethereal and human-looking, could any of us tell for certain whether it was Granny or a demon pretending to be Granny? I think the JW's are wrong on this. My grandmother called to me at the moment she died and I was hundreds of miles away. That's my feeling on the subject but I cannot absolutely rule out the possibility of an impersonating demon. I just don't see what the demon would have gained in that action.

Three more possibilities are floating around. One is that the spirit, separated from the body, has a finite lifespan. This can depend on available energy to support that spirit. It would explain why rural areas are largely ghostless. If the spirits have no energy source they will not be able to sustain any sort of manifestation and might eventually fade out of existence altogether.

The second concerns travel. Are ghosts bound to Earth? If I had the ability to visit Jupiter or Saturn, without being crushed by their atmospheres, I'd do it. Who wouldn't? If, as a spirit, we could wander the universe, why would we stay here? If ghosts are not bound by a planet then they could be off wandering and sightseeing.

Finally, what if there is a spirit predator? Every natural system we know about has predators. Could there be some kind of unknown creature that lives on ghost energy? Are those ghosts being eaten? It would explain why there are so few very old ghosts around. Roman ghosts, for example, tend to be of the 'recording' variety rather than the actual spirit.

All speculation, but being effectively house-bound can do that. There's a local ruined church I've been itching to look at but with no roof and random rain, it's out of the question for now.

Any more possibilities? Somewhere there are a lot of missing ghosts.