Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ghost Revival.

Most British people think it is possible to communicate with the dead. This is especially remarkable because very few believe it is possible to communicate with a living politician. Perhaps we'd have better luck if they were dead. It must surely be worth a try.

Even so, it's encouraging news, even if many of those 'believers' are determined to talk to Princess Diana, an ex-member of the Royal Family and hardly someone you'd expect to chat to at the supermarket checkout.

Why does everyone think that talking to the dead involves a fireside rumination with royalty or an ectoplasmic flirtation with Marylin Monroe? Just as in real life, most dead people are commoners and some are downright bores. One thing that would alert me to the possibility of a fake psychic is the apparent ability to call up famous dead people at will. Or indeed, the ability to call up anyone. That's not mediumship, that's necromancy and that's nasty.

One thing I would really like to try is to get two of the most obviously fake psychics and send them a client each. Those clients would ask the fakes to call up the same ghost at the same time. Obviously, the fakes won't be in on the game.

I'll bet they'll both get a result and I'll bet the ghost, while appearing at two locations simultaneously, will also exhibit two completely different characters. I will further bet that neither fake will hear from this ghost that he/she is being called away to another sitting. Have you ever seen that happen on TV?

No real psychic can claim 100% success. No real psychic can call up just the right number of spirits to fill a TV programme week after week with never a blank spot and never a random spirit who isn't involved with anyone in the room. No real psychic would ever call up any spirit at all, they would just have to deal with whoever turned up. Real psychics can learn to shut them out but never to force an appearance of a specific spirit. Fakes annoy me.

All the same, it is encouraging to find that I am not working in a totally disparaged field. There are those who laugh and dismiss the entire subject, but there always have been and always will be.

It's nice to know they are not the majority.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Granny wins again.

My grandmother was a fount of wisdom, usually delivered with a scowl and a clip around the ear. Then again, I was never short of comics or pocket money. A fearsome woman, short and square and apparently made of ill-tempered brick, but when it came to family she knew which side to take.

Stung by nettles? Crush dockleaf and rub it in. Gut problems? Apples. If she resorted to pharmaceuticals, it went as far as calamine lotion, kaolin and morphine or aspirin. No further.

One treatment for warts was the sap from dandelions. Snap off the flower and the white exudate would kill a wart. Incidentally, dandelion flowers make good wine, the leaves are good in salads and the roots can be eaten boiled or fried. Don't be too hasty with that weedkiller.

Science is catching up with Grandma. They have now found that non-melanoma skin cancers (warts) can be cured with topical application of milkweed sap. Somewhere in the spirit world, Grandma is administering an ectoplasmic smack across the head to a scientist. She knew about that years ago.

The odd thing about science is that when you read about marvellous cures for this and that, they involve some exotic Polynesian fruit or rare Transylvanian herb. Blueberries and cranberries abound in these papers, as do kiwi fruit and starfruit and yams. One fruit they ignore, in all cases, is the humble apple.

I did test them. Since testing them I have planted two apple trees in my garden. Draw your own conclusions.

The arrogance of modern science and medicine is leading to their downfall. The 'five-a-day' fruit and vegetable recommendation, or the '21 units of alcohol' limit for example - have you seen the research from which these figures were derived? I can state with absolute confidence that you have not. There was no research. Both figures were simply made up.

Now, the most effective way of leaving tobacco ever invented is to be banned on the lack of understanding displayed by an idiot:

Democrat Linda Rosenthal, or the New York Assembly, said: 'I got interested in this because I saw all these ads for e-cigarettes, so I did some research.

'I found what is in the e-cigarettes is a mystery.'

She didn't do very much research. Every electrosmoking website I've seen details exactly what's in them. Water and propylene glycol or glycerol (common and safe food additives) for the 'smoke', flavouring of all kinds and nicotine. The nicotine is optional. I have zero-nicotine electrosmoking fluid that works, for me, just as well. The addiction story is, and always has been, nonsense.

It's going to be banned to protect the interests of the pharmaceutical companies selling patches and gum and to keep tobacco revenues pouring in. If you live in New York and vote for these people, you are voting to keep smokers on tobacco because the patches and gum have never worked and never will. Electrosmoking does work. If you like being surrounded by smokers, vote for Linda Rosenthal. If you think smokers should get a safer alternative that produces no ash, butts or smell, vote that idiot out at the first opportunity.

There is no science any more. Rely on Granny because those who claim to 'know best' cannot be trusted. They have been proven to be just making up their results, time and again.

Now they are claiming credit for knowledge Granny learned from her own Granny.

That's just despicable.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Goodbye Orion.

In the northern UK, we see the constellation Orion in its entirety in winter. It is one of the few we can consistently identify, along with Cassiopea (the 'Big 'W') and Ursus Major (the 'Great Bear' or the 'Big Dipper') Both can be used to find the Pole Star, Polaris, and there was a time, not so long ago but before widespread computer use, when we were taught how to do this in school.

The top left star, Betelgeuse, has entered popular imagination through the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the spooky-fun film 'Beetlejuice'. Not everyone knows how to find it but there are few who can say they have never heard the name.

Betelgeuse is an old star, a red giant, and is close to its own personal boom-day. When it goes it is likely to produce a supernova bright enough to be seen by day. There is nothing to fear in this, the star is 650 light years away so we won't get much in the way of dangerous radiation or debris coming our way. We will get an awful lot of visible light though.

Astronomers say it might happen as soon as next year. What they are actually saying is that they think it might have happened 649 years ago and the light will arrive next year. Then again, it might not happen for a long time yet. It's not easy to be sure with these things.

Part of me hopes it goes nova during my lifetime. I'd like to see that. Another part of me would prefer not to see the end of Orion. It's one of the easiest constellations to identify.

It's an important one, because the three stars of the belt point to the rising of the sun, three days after its apparent demise at the winter solstice. These three, known as the 'three kings' in many cultures, are the three kings that follow the rebirth of the Sun.

I'm not going to get into that now. I just hope to see a supernova and simultaneously hope it doesn't wreck one of the most easily-found constellations for those of us who are not astronomers.

A supernova in Canis Minor would be better. I can never find that one anyway.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dr. Crippen's Corpse.

The UK abandoned capital punishment in the 1960's. You won't get hanged for murder here, instead you are likely to get a stern ticking-off and maybe a prison sentence that you'll serve about half of. Seems to me as if it's gone a bit too far the other way, but that's what we have now.

I am not a supporter of capital punishment for one reason - what if the wrong person is convicted and killed? If the wrong person is imprisoned, you can let them out and compensate them for the error. If they're dead, well, 'sorry' doesn't really help.

It has happened in the past and it seems it happened in one of the more famous murder trials of the last century. Dr. Crippen was hanged for the murder of his wife and always protested his innocence.Rather than being a famous murder case, it seems it was in fact a famous miscarriage of justice.

Some things about the case still don't quite fit. There is mention of a 'headless corpse', then a piece of flesh, shown to the court, which had a scar. This was given as evidence that the flesh came from Mrs. Crippen and on that, Dr. Crippen was convicted and hanged.

DNA testing now reveals the flesh to have been male. If it came from that headless corpse, couldn't they tell? Only the head was missing. Did Victorian morals extend to the post mortem room, with the body fully clothed throughout the investigation? Somebody must have noticed whether the corpse, head or no, was male or female.

There is also the matter of this corpse. It was found in the cellar, minus head, so someone was murdered. Nobody cuts off their own head and then hides it. It also means that someone was a murderer. It does not mean it was Dr. Crippen who did this, nor that Mrs. Crippen was the corpse. There was, however, a murder carried out by someone at the premises.

In law, that's beside the point. Dr. Crippen was convicted on the basis of false evidence. He was not accused of killing a man so the presentation of a bit of male flesh was not evidence that he killed his wife. If the cellar corpse was male, then it was evidently not his wife, yet he was convicted of killing his wife.

Whether he was responsible for the cellar corpse is neither here nor there. If it was never proved that the corpse was his wife, he should not have been convicted of her murder. As to what really happened, once he had been hanged, there was nobody who could say.

So it seems the death of Dr. Crippen was a miscarriage of justice, and one that could never be put right no matter what new evidence came to light. That gives investigators a very strong incentive to cover up any new evidence that might prove they were wrong, and that is not a good basis for a fair justice system.

There are cases where a death penalty would be appropriate, such as the Yorkshire Ripper case which concluded without a shred of doubt that Peter Sutcliffe was guilty. However, I would never support a return of the death penalty because it will be wrongly used. We already hear of cases where the wrong man was locked up, and who is then released and compensated. That can't happen if the wrong man goes to the gallows.

If one of the more famous murder convictions was based on unreliable, maybe even false evidence, then how certain can we be of the reliability of the courts? They do get things wrong sometimes and that's because they are human. It's no shame to admit to being human and making mistakes now and then.

Unless that mistake has caused someone to be executed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A new Zodiac recruit.

Apparently there's a new Zodiac sign. It seems the Earth has shifted around since astrology was first conceived and the Sun no longer goes through the right signs at the right times. In fact, there's a constellation it goes through now that it didn't go through before. Ophiuchus, the snake-wrestler.

The new list is as follows.

Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11
Pisces: March 11-April 18
Aries: April 18-May 13
Taurus: May 13-June 21
Gemini: June 21-July 20
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29-Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20

I thought I was Aries but now it seems I'm completely Pisces. Which I deny. I haven't touched a drop today. I despise being in water as much as a cat does, I can barely swim and I am uncomfortable on boats. A fish-sign does not suit me at all. I prefer to stick with Aries the Ram because the idea of being able to head-butt people without feeling any need to give any kind of explanation is very appealing indeed.

Does anyone know where this stellar image of a giant guy waving his serpent around came from? I am not a student of astrology so maybe he's been in the picture all this time and I haven't noticed. Although I have to say I have never heard the name at all.

This new list comes from astronomers rather than astrologers so I have no idea of the impact (if any) it has on astrology. Does it change things retrospectively? Am I Aries because it was still Aries when I was born, or do I have to go out and get Pisces now? This is more confusing than when they demoted Pluto from 'planet' to 'big rock'. At least Pluto didn't change its orbit in response.

I wonder what the character traits for Ophiuchus people will be. A propensity for shaking your snake at people, or perhaps the ability to recognise and strangle the slimy people. That could be useful.

We'll have to wait and see whether this new sign works its way into astrology. I'm sure it will mean a lot of books will have to be rewritten.

It'll be interesting to see what effect this has. I'm sure the astronomers plan to use this to say 'Nyah, you're wrong' to the astrologers, but won't they be kicking themselves if the adjustment turned out to make astrology much more accurate?

That would be worth seeing.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Peering over the keyboard.

This wretched holiday refuses to end.

In Scotland, both the first and second of January are holidays because the Scots New Year parties mean most people need both days for recovery. This year, those dates fell on Saturday and Sunday, but they apparently don't count. So everything is still shut down for Monday and Tuesday.

Reality does not descend until Wednesday. It's going to happen again next year.

I need a new chair. This one is broken. The gas-lift plunger has popped out of the bottom so it's at minimum height and staying there. If I had a webcam now I would look like an enraged gnome. I have ordered another but it won't even be dispatched before Wednesday.

Bah. Humbug. Scrooge was right all along.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Year.

Wel, that's this holiday period nearly over. I expect the shops will be stocked with Easter eggs when they reopen on Tuesday.

I'll be glad when it gets back to normal on the High Street. I am in desperate need of a haircut.

So begins 2011. As always, everyone considers it a new year and imagines it will somehow be different. There are those who believe the world will end when the Mayan calendar ends on December 12th 2012. Well, our calendar just ended again and the planet didn't even notice.

The Mayan calendar is a long one but it has ended before and when it ends this time, it just goes back to the beginning again. As ours does. So I don't expect anything to happen in December 2012.

Well, there will be one event of note in 2012. There will be one second of time where clocks that display seconds will read 12:12:12 on 12/12/12. A small amusement, just as this year they read, for one second, 10:10:10 on 10/10/10 and there'll be one next November too. After the 2012 one, these little amusements won't be available again until the year 3000 and I, for one, am not confident about being here to see that.

As for resolutions, I don't really have any. I need to lose the weight I've gained by sitting around snowbound for a month but that's a necessity, not a resolution. I hope to revive this neglected blog this year and get back to the expanded version of 'Ghosthunting' which has also been neglected.

We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, I hope the year turns out to be a good one for everyone.

Happy New Year.