Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I've moved over there -->

My blog has moved! It can now be found over on wordpress which I have always found easier to use with more options, yadda yadda yadda.

Please, if you do have a link to my blog anywhere, could you update it? Thank oo.

It's now at http://www.ratherfriendlyskeptic.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 25 April 2010

These eyes of mine

These eyes of mine have read about things and have seen things in the past year that have messed with my emotions. I think that's why I feel so inspired to blog and to speak out about these things. It's because I'm human and my reaction when I see something I don't agree with, or that I do not like is to speak out about it.

Coming up is the one year anniversary of Righteous Indignation and I was going over the past show notes that I have laying around and it took me back to some stories that, at the time, had made me feel angry, sad, helpless, inspired, proud... you get the idea.

That's why I've thrown together this little video. Now, it's nothing special as I only have Windows movie maker but I made it to outline those things that in my mind have stood out in the past year for me. Stories and things that have touched me in some way. I hope it makes you think as much as it did me. It also contains the most important thing I've learnt this past year so you'll have to watch until the end if you want to see.

Below the video I have listed the stories that the pictures in the video relate to incase you don't recognise them.


The wind turbine hit by a UFO - it had to have been the mostly discussed topic I encountered at places such as Weird '09 and online with my ufology friends. Turns out it wasn't aliens afterall...

The loch ness monster on google earth
- that turned out to be a boat and it's wake in the water. ha.

The Michael Jackson seance - represented everything I hate about pop paranormal, not to mention how the conspiracies and stories surrounding Michaels death kept us busy in RI for weeks and weeks.


The Church who conducted a gay exorcism - because if you're gay it means your possesed. Apparently. Either that, or your church is full of close-minded, prejudice, mean, hateful biggots who have no issue in abusing another human being and their rights because of their lifestyle choice. But what do I know?


The ADE651 - "What fuckin' drugs are you on using magic wands in Iraq to detect bombs?" Baba Brinkman got it spot on with those lyrics in the rationalist anthem.


Desiree Jennings - Apparently she developed the neurological condition, Dystonia, after having her seasonal flu jab. It caused panic and many turned against vaccines. Turns out she was imagining it all but that didn't stop the anti-vax twats jumping all over her story and proclaiming they had cured her with their bullshit methods such as chelation therapy - which is extremely dangerous actually. Fucktards.

Scientologists in Haiti - I don't think I need to say any more really. Other than FFS!


Execution - Boo! Execution violates basic human rights and has no effect on crime prevention. It's disgusting that thousands of people killed each year. An eye for an eye doesn't work and cannot be justified.


Rom Houben - He "awoke" from a coma and was able to pass on deep messages about being trapped inside his own mind and not being able to scream. In all probability it was his carer that was passing on these messages through a controversial method called 'facilitated communication.'

Lubna Hussein - Lubna was arrested for wearing trousers and sentenced to lashes and a fine. She should have been immune to this fine because she worked for the UN but she waived her right to immunity to make an example of barbaric laws that oppress muslim people. Such an inspirationally brave woman.

The Minarets ban - The swiss banned Minarets with a series of offensive, discriminative posters. All I shall say is that singling out a minority is not proactive. Tolarence and diversity are treasured gifts.

Natalie Morton - Natalie Morton was the girl who tragically died at the age of fourteen. Her death was quickly blamed on the HPV vaccine which she had been given hours before her passing. It caused mass panic about the vaccine even though it was revealed she had died of a tumor in her chest. Sadly she was refered to by many as 'the HPV girl' or similar which is hardly a befitting way to refer to a young girl who tragically had her life ended at such a young age and was used as a poster by many anti-vaccination fuckwits to prove their point. :(

Dana Mccaffery - Dana Elizabeth McCaffery died in March at 4 weeks of age from Whooping cough. Sadly, she is one of three babies that has died from this totally vaccine preventable disease in Australia this year. The Anti-vaccination movement disgust me because they are so ignorant. Meryl Dorey, the founder of the AVN denied that anyone could die of Whooping cough whist seated only meters away from the parents of little Dana Mccaffery. Bitch.

Gloria Thomas - Gloria was only a few months old when she died because of her aggressive eczmah that her parents refused to treat with conventional medicine. Instead they chose to use homeopathy. They continued to do this until they realised it had, had dire consequences. Glorias corneas had melted, her dark hair had turned white and her skin was split open and she died in agony. Words don't sum up how tragic her story is, and they never will. :(

Adrian pengelly - Adrian Pengelly it the so-called spiritual healer who was, in 2009, featured on an episode of BBC's Watchdog that exposed his dubious healing claims (that included cancer...) and showed him to be a bit of an idiot. Some time later he was charged under the cancer act - something he was proud of. Knob.

British Humanist Association - The BHA are for people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. I didn't know about them until last year and they're well worth following for anyone who is a humanist/secularist etc.

10:23 - I was proud to be involved with one of the 10:23 campaign protests (the one in Bristol) and what this has achieved, what this small group of people in Merseyside have managed to achieve globally is amazing, and proof that you CAN make a change in the woo world we live in, and that skeptics are pretty awesome. 10:23am on a Saturday morning! FFS!


The BCA promote bogus treatments - 'nuff said.

"Free speech is not for sale" aka. Simon Singh & Libel reform - The most incredible thing to come out of the lengthy battle that Simon Singh had with the BCA is the libel reform campaign. It's been brilliant to watch the skeptical community rally around this as if to say "We don't like that's happened to Simon, so we're going to do something about it." Please sign the petition if you haven't already!


Skeptics in the pub* (+ ladies who do skepticism) - I mentioned skeptics in the pub because of what it stands for. The sheer power of giving like minded people a place to meet other like minded people whilst getting to listen to talks and lectures is simplistic genuis. I didn't put ladies who do skepticism in the video, but it deserves a huge mention as, although I'm not psychic, I forsee a future filled with these events.

Atheist bus campaign - I wont go on about the campaign because anyone who hasn't heard of it is either lost, confused or a cat. Just Sayin' - however, what the Atheist bus campaign did was show that Atheism isn't an ugly thing. Ariane Sherine is totally awesome for what she has done with the campaign and what it has then gone on to inspire.


Sense about science - "Sense About Science is an independent charitable trust. We respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, from scares about plastic bottles, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation. We work with scientists and civic groups to promote evidence and scientific reasoning in public discussion."

and all I have to say about sense and science is - "keep libel laws out of science."

----

Obviously I couldn't include every single story that has inspired me in the past year as there have been so many, but my aim was to include images in the video that made people remember a time when they too felt elated, happy, angry, saddened or just at a loss.

The thing I like about the skeptical community is that mostly, it takes those emotions and it does something about it. Skeptics often speak out for the people who can't speak out, or don't know how to speak out, or don't realise that something is wrong.

Heh, I'm just being sentimental. I'll stop now.


* Yes, the skeptics in the pub link does go to the Nottingham skeptics in the pub page, and yes, that may because I'm speaking for them in June. In this case bias is good. So shhhh.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The gardener

Serene he stands amid the flowers,
and only counts lifes sunny hours.
To him dull days do not exist,
evermore the optomist!

I have found a new passtime! Gardening! I've just gotten in from pruning the rose bushes we have in our garden and I found a sproutling in the peppers that we're growing. There's something quite relaxing about gardening that I can't quite place my finger on.
I grew up under the command of the chief gardener, the grandfather whose garden boasted the most amazing hanging baskets, beds of all sorts of flowers - all aranged perfectly. I would spend hours dead heading them, it was the norm. Perhaps that's why I like gardening now? Perhaps I inherited some of my grandfathers calmness towards his plants? 

The little verse at the top of this blog was on a slab on stone that acted as a step up to my grandfathers shed. It was a rosy sandy stone and I can remember it fondly because it describes him perfectly. Sort of. 

Anyway, I just hope that the bulbs we've planted all over our garden don't die or get eaten by the dog who seems to enjoy trying to dog them up. Gr.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The harm that woo does.

On Saturday 17th April '10 a small group of us visited the Llandoger Trow in the city of Bristol to spend some time there to see what conclusion we could reach about the supposed haunting there. It wasn't a full investigation - more of an experience evening for some curious friends. I walked away from the location feeling rather uncomfortable about what we had discovered and I'm not talking about something strange and unexplainable that we witnessed, but rather what we uncovered with regards to the supposed haunting and the effect it has had on the building.


Throughout the time spent there we conducted various vigils (for want of a better word) in various area of the location with nothing out of the ordinary happening. With it being quiet we decided it would be interesting to conduct a ouija board experiment on the second floor. The experiment was a simple one - we all took part in a normal ouija board seance for a while and then I wrote down a word on a piece of paper and placed it on a table away from the others who then asked the 'spirit' or whatever it was that was making the planchette move to spell out the word I had written down that nobody had seen.

It didn't.
The group with the board. The board that didn't pass my test :/

The place felt very calm and normal and not at all sinister as we had been told it would, however, the most interesting thing of the night occured as we sat at the table with the ouija board. 
A member of staff who lives in the staff quarters walked into the room we were in on her way up to her room and upon seeing the board utterly freaked out and started saying how scared she was of the place. 

We asked her what she had experienced and her reply was nothing but she was still scared of what she had been told was there. She soon left us alone after we explained to her how the ouija board isn't dangerous and is just a game. We carried on and a little while later whilst having a cup of tea and a break we were joined by what I presume was the manager/supervisor who got chatting to me and a couple of other members of our team. She too told us of how scared she was of the building and the ghosts that were there.

 Here I can be seen demonstrating my ability to shoot light from the top of my head.

Tom, one of the team, asked her what she had seen or experienced and her reply was the same as the other girl we had met - nothing, but she'd been told by other teams what was meant to be there. She asked me which one of our team was the psychic or medium. When I told her none of us were she was shocked as 'teams normally have one when they come here.' She told us of a local team (whom I shall not name because I can't bring myself to type their name) whose "sensetive" members had picked up on all sorts of spirits and activity. They had apparently done glass divination and it had been so active that the team had left early because they were so scared. 

This is where I got really pissed off because that is so unethical of that team to do that to the people who live and work at the location. It's one of the least scariest places I have ever visited. I would happily sit in that building on my own over night and yet the people who work there have had it drummed into their head by numerous teams that there is something there, something scary that they should be wary of. It's got them really, really frightened and that's not right. 

In the bar area of the pub there is a shelf with certificates from the paranormal teams that have visited the location previously and those teams should be utterly ashamed of what they've done to the people at the location. 

On our way home we were discussing what we had discovered and we all agreed that it was likely the other teams had visited the location because of it's reputation because they wanted to find a ghost and they did. This is the issue with modern ghost hunting. It's tacky. It's tacky because anyone and everyone seems to go to a supposedly haunted location with their medium, try to find a ghost using out dated techniques just to prove to themselves that their belief in an afterlife or the existence of ghosts is right. 

It's as though they don't even stop to think about what they're doing. Go and do your divination and seances in your own homes but for goodness sake don't go to somebody elses home or place of work and do that sort of crap because it scares people, it misleads them and you are doing nothing but forcing your personal beliefs down their throats. 

I now will have to go out of my way to go and visit the location during the day to talk them through the issues I have stumbled upon because I am genuinely worried about the staff members who are scared. I've never actually come across people who have been so badly effected by the actions of a few close-minded woo-woo ghost hunting teams.

Shame on them.

The house healer

In the UK we've recently been having some wonderful weather which has inspired many to have a spring clean in the hope that it will shift away the winter blues we've become so accustomed to of late. However, according to the Daily Mail it might not all be that easy.

Apparently many of us find that despite having a spring clean we still feel gloomy within our own homes. This, they say, could be down to bad energy making our homes sick. Or at least, that's what Sandra Kendrew says anyway.

She labels the bad energy as three different types:

- geopathic stress which is natural radiation and is distorted by underground water, quarrying, minerals, fault lines and construction (which coincidentally is what is said to disturb ghosts, coincidence?)[1]

- Geomagnetic stress which is caused by electro-magneitc pollution from nearby pylons, sub-stations and radiation in the home, such as a ' disruptive' WiFi connection. [1]

- and, Geopsychic stress which is the lingering emotional energy created by previous occupants and the property's current owners.Or ghosts.[2]

Now, I'm sure your bullshit detectors are going off majorly already. We've got mentions of negative energy, pollution from pylons and wifi, and ghosts. However, it gets even more woo because Sandra claims to be able to heal these problems within your home or business and has been doing so for nearly a decade already.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

say what?!

We all have that one person that we know of who annoys us slightly, or who we don't get on with and don't have anything to do with. I have a few people like that who are involved in paranormal research who I stay well clear of. However, today, I recieved an email from an old friend of mine about an interview a Wiltshire based paranormal celebrity did about a 'gay ghost hunt' he is hosting with the Fright Nights company.

I don't know what sexual preference has to do with paranormal research, but there we go.

My friend said "Don't have any food or drink in your mouth and scroll down to question 8." So I did. In it, Ray, the person I don't get on with (long story, we don't see eye to eye but used to be friends blah, blah, blah) is asked:

it’s [the gay ghost hunt] a really good idea, I mean they have gay days at the zoo, why not have gay nights of ghost hunting!
He replies:
Exactly and I think we’ve captured a really good market because I believe that gay and lesbian people are slightly more sensitive than straight people and I believe that sensitivity might heighten their investigation. I’ve got this theory it’s really weird, it’s just something that crossed my mind, maybe gay and lesbian people are quite sensitive and maybe because they’ve got that sensitivity they might pick up spirit a bit more and they might get a bit more experience than say a straight person who isn’t that sensitive. I don’t know it’s a theory, it’s something that I’m investigating and I’m working on right now.

 Let's just go over that again. 


- " believe that gay and lesbian people are slightly more sensitive than straight people and I believe that sensitivity might heighten their investigation." O_O

- "maybe gay and lesbian people are quite sensitive and maybe because they’ve got that sensitivity they might pick up spirit a bit more and they might get a bit more experience than say a straight person who isn’t that sensitive." O_O

Is it honestly, seriously me that thinks that's bad shit crazy money making propaganda?

I would wonder what Ray would have to say about the medium/psychic/whatever he manages who is known as "the youngest female psychic in the UK" who is straight. Is he saying that because she is straight she "isn't that sensetive"?

I don't like to get into "tit for tat" bitchy comments, but for the love of whatever you believe in, make your frickin' mind up, dude!

A collection of uninteresting thoughts

At the beginning of this week I travelled up to Manchester to do a live recording of Righteous Indignation in front of the Greater Manchester Skeptics society at their first ever Skeptics in the pub talk event. Trystan was doing his rather fab 'ghosts and the people who haunt them' talk and it was a really good evening. For their first event they had quite a good turn out to such a really cool little venue called TV21 in the Northern quarter of the city.

I got to meet some fab people that I've known online for a bit but have never met - namely, of course, Marsh and Gav my co-hosts. But also some really great skeptical folk from Manchester and Liverpool. As I sat on the train home on Wednesday I felt quite disappointed that I was leaving it all behind.

I was quite glad that I'd gotten to meet Janis, who helps to orgnise the Greater Manchester skeptics who told me all about the 'Ladies who do skepticism (and coffee)' events that the GM Skeptics have recently launched. It's an amazing idea that I hope catches on throughout the skeptical community. If there is one thing of which I am sure it is that sometimes being a skeptical person can be a bit lonely if you don't know people who are like minded and, being female, the prospect of going along to a pub full of skeptics can be quite daunting if you've never been to a SitP event before. So going along to a coffee shop to meet like minded females is a great introduction to the skeptical community. It opens doors and might go some way to closing the gap between the genders in skepticism. If anyone wants to learn more they should contact Janis via the GM Skeptics facebook or twitter. Or by getting in contact with @Skepticladies on twitter for more information.

The live recording of Righteous Indignation was unlike anything I have ever done before. People laughed at things I said and I got applauded for answering Trystan back *giggle*

It's going out on Monday as our normal show normally would do. You should deffo check it out. It was interesting AND fun. It was great to be sat next to my cohosts for a change and I secretly hope we get to do it again.

The rest of the week has gone by in a blur of gardening, nice weather, random stuff and applying for masses of jobs and suddenly I'm at Saturday and I'm facing the prospect of a really interesting evening, night and morning in an ancient public house in Bristol. The Llandoger Trow has a hugely interesting past.

It was around when pirates would have frequented it and it is reputed to be haunted by a child who wears leg braces - referred to as Pierre. He apparently died in the pub many years ago. According to Guy Lyon Playfair in The Haunted Pub Guide, many apparitions have been reported here.

Dating from 1664, the building is stepped in a mysterious and interesting history. A trow was a flat-bottomed barge, and Llandogo is a village some 20 miles north of Bristol, across the Bristol Channel and upstream on the River Wye in South Wales, where trows were once built. Trows historically sailed to trade in Bristol.
The pub was partially destroyed by a bomb in World War II but three of the original five projecting gables remain. It is a grade II listed building.Tradition has it that Daniel Defoe met Alexander Selkirk (Robinson Crusoe) here, and it was Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspiration for the Admiral Benbow in Treasure Island.

We're going to be there from 11pm until 6am and I really cannot wait. There's something strangely nice about sitting in an ancient building with such a history at, say, two o'clock in the morning drinking a cup of tea wondering if the supposed ghost is really lurking around the corner or whether it's all down to somebodies imagination.

This is the ghost that was apparently caught on camera by a previous investigation team at the pub in the cellar. It's really scary. Not.


I didn't know ghosts appeared as yellow arrows, but there we go :P
On a final note; it would seem that my 'A brighter Bradford-On-Avon' website has attracted the attention of a homeopathic fan who decided to spam the comments box. It's quite funny as this happened yesterday and today a rather important figure in Bradford-On-Avon's community shook my hand on my door step whilst telling me they liked the website very much indeed.