Do you want to upgrade Java?

No I fucking well do not

I don’t want to upgrade anything.  I want my gawdamn computer to work the way it has always worked. I don’t want to log on and see a new user interface promising me an upgraded experience. I want it to work the way it always has.

So FUCK OFF SILICON VALLEY. Fire all of those pricks who keep changing the way my machines work. Let them go back to brewing fucking lattes at Starbucks where they belong and LEAVE MY GODDAM COMPUTER ALONE!!!!zits 2017 09 02

 

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Posted in Trout on the Line | 2 Comments

Keep Your Eyes on the Skies! Part 2

In which more personal experience of high strangeness is reviewed

This was originally attached to my Part 1 post as an update on 29 September 2017, but best to make it stand alone.

About time I got around to updating this, particularly as I had another experience in June this year.

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This is the view from the Main Bar Terrace at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, one of my favourite spots on the planet to relax of an evening and sip a tasty beverage. And in fact, one of the new barmen, Marvid (yes, that’s his real name) makes the best straight-up triple-olive very dry (I take a 9 on the Marvid 1 to 10 dryness scale) double vodka martini that I have had since the last time my cousin-in-law shouted me and my at-the-time girlfriend dinner at Joe’s in Las Vegas. Here’s Marvelous Marvid the Magnificently Magical Martini Maker at work.

Result. You need to let it sit for a minute or so before sipping to let the flavour develop fully. And you need to beware your limit. These puppies bite. I can handle maximum 5 or maybe 8. After that it’s ‘Call me an Ambulance!!” (Answer – you’re an Ambulance).

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But I digress.

The Terrace photo above shows the view out over the finish line of the regular summer Friday night Sunset Series races off of the RHKYC. Taken early June 2017 I think. You can see a couple of boats crossing the line in different directions, one of them probably finishing but I am not sure if it is the cruiser going upwind or the red spinnaker crossing in the other direction who was done. Can’t remember.

You can see the YC guys in the starters box on the left not paying a lot of attention (the Race Officer was in the box below them calling times and blowing the hooter), you can see the skyline of Kowloon to the North (pretty much due North) and in the distance, you can see the peak of Ma On Shan, just above and to the right of the white sloop crossing the line from left to right.

Here’s the same view in low cloud cover in early evening. Notice the lack of building light reflection on the clouds.20170707_193119

Here’s the same view a little bit later in the evening. Please also notice the lack of building glow on the clouds.

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On the evening of 12th June 2017 Typhoon Merbok tracked straight into Hong Kong.

meerbok-apporaches.jpg

Not a big deal of a storm but an interesting track. nwp_1707

It hit Hong Kong just East of the city, made a hard right turn and then slid off to the Northeast and dissipated. Like someone (or something) turned off the switch.

I was out on the streets in Wanchai that night and some strange stuff was going on.

On the following night, 13 June 2015, some even stranger shit happened. Here’s a photo I took about 2000 hours on 13 June 2017 from the main bar terrace.

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And another

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Compare to the other evening photos. That’s right, there was an anomalous skyglow over Ma On Shan Country Park.

Not building lights. See previous photos. There was something sitting over Ma On Shan generating light.  A lot of people saw it. and I took photos. And then the weird shit really ratcheted up.

About 2130 hours, out on the terrace where I was contemplating the skyglow and thinking about maybe having only the second drink of the evening (I’d been staying mostly teatotal for reasons of my own), with about ten people scattered about the terrace, suddenly an apparently healthy rat appeared and scampered through the chairs and tables, producing a few, shall-we-say, ‘startled’ reactions from those of us observant and sober enough to see it. It disappeared down the walkway to the west.

Healthy rats don’t do that. They don’t come out when people are around. I asked the bar staff if anyone had reported any other rat sightings and… why yes!!’

A number of people enjoying the ambience on the new Main Deck area had reported rats frolicking about under their feet while they enjoyed their Marvid Martinis and sundry other delights. I saw another one later as I was leaving (leaped out of a trash can with a gawdawful bang) and all told that makes a total of five rat reports while people were around. Unheard of. Animals often display strange behaviour in the presence of UAPs, or AAPs or UFOs or… whatever was responsible for the light over Ma On Shan.

Here’s the new Main Deck BTW.

20170526_202437Despite all the grumbling over the expense and the disruption, the result is truly magnificent and, although I hate to say it, it looks like the General Committee sure got this one right. F & B Revenue up 30% and that was just the first month. But I digress once more.

There was other strange stuff going on that night – my cheapo Casio G-shock sailing watch was acting up, light flashing on and off, time changing randomly (the Rolex is in the shop – note to self – do not accidentally drop the Rolex on the cut granite floors of the new change rooms. Note to GenCom – how about installing some valuables baskets inside the new locker doors so no one else gets their Rolex rooted). My phone did two things that were so weird I hesitate to describe them. Yes, me, Lord Dubin of KI, the Wizard of Weird, is gonna keep these to himself. That’s highly anomalous right there.

Another anomalous report came in a few days later. A friend of mine, a former Commodore, who I spoke to the following week and to whom I described the skyglow and the rats, commented “that’s odd, Sunday as I was sailing East out of the Harbour on the way to Hebe Haven I counted at least 15 dead rats in the harbour”. Something sure put the fear of God into the local rat population. Did they drown in the typhoon? Nah, it was pretty mild, not that much rain and rats swim well and get to high ground when they need to.

I also did the MUFON thing. Got onto the HK Observatory to start with (they have the thankless task of collecting UFO reports in town although they don’t investigate). They sat up and listened when I described the rat behaviour and confirmed no anomalous radiation readings. Unfortunately they don’t monitor magnetic anomalies. I’ll come back to that. They also confirmed that their automated weather station on the top of Ma On Shan does not have powerful lights that would explain the skyglow.

I also wrote to the cops, Civil Aviation, Marine Department, Agriculture, Conservation and Fisheries (responsible for reports on animals), plus three Universities who I asked whether they might have magnetometer readings over the period the anomalous skyglow was observed.

All of the Government Departments have gotten back to me. No pilot reports or radar anomalies from CAD, nothing strange from MarDep (I asked about reports of compass deflection), no reports of unusual animal behaviour around Ma On Shan from AFCD, the cops wrote me last week (three months later) to tell me they were referring the case to the Tsuen Wan Division. None of the three Universities have bothered to reply to date. Not surprising as no professional academic would ever touch the subject with a ten foot pole (or even – old joke – a nine foot Ukrainian).

So what have I got? Just a couple more things.

When I got home in the early hours of June 14, severely shaken by the skyglow, the rats and with having had to deal with an unprovoked assault at RHKYC (happens to me with unfortunate regularity due to my – largely self-promoted – reputation as a tough guy and a constant stream of unpleasant slanders whispered by a certain ex-wife), I had another strange observation.

A small compass in my flat was pointing at about 110 degrees, instead of North (this is part of why I asked MarDep about any reports of strange compass readings from ships).

And then there was this.

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That is a jade bangle cut from near gem quality Imperial jade. Inside it are two white-board magnets back to back. This is what normally happens when I spin the magnets. They wind up pointing North-South with the green bit pointed North. Not sure why this works but jade has magnetic properties beyond my ken.

In the early hours of June 14, about 0200, and yes I was sober (more or less), I came in and spun the magnets. Perfect spin, then the green bit slammed into the bangle with an audible clang pointing at 110 degrees. I did it again, same result. I looked at the compass. Pointing at 110 degrees instead of North.

A couple of days later, I decided to see what lay on a course of 110 degrees from Ma On Shan. Nothing – no land for 19,000 km. Then this. Northern coast of Chile near the Atacama Desert.

UFO track 2017 06 14

And so what does that tell me? Like much of my life, I don’t know.

But consider what I saw (and T photographed) in in 2015 at SDM in Ontario:

SDM UFO IMG_1551 ZOOM 400

And consider the Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) video released by the Chilean Air Force after an encounter in November 2014? If you can’t stand to read Leslie Kean’s article here is a direct link to the video. Bear in mind this is FLIR. The darker it is the hotter and brighter it is in normal view. Here’s a screengrab in negative (ie normal light) view. In this view the white bits are hot.

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Coincidence? What the hell do I know? Not much.

Finally, on 14 June 2017 I was called into the General Manager’s office at RHKYC to explain the assault I had been subjected to the night before and which I reported immediately to the GM and the Commodore. During the interview I turned around and looked at the back corner of the GMs office and saw this.

Well! WTF do I know? This is a Feng Shui water feature ornament and strangely enough it is aligned on an absolutely straight line through the corner of the terrace where I had been watching the skyglow the night before, to Ma On Shan where the skyglow appeared.   When I explained, and stopped freaking out, the GM asked me Ian do you think that thing attracts UFOs?”

I was honest, as always… “Yes!”.

 

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American Gun Laws and Mass Shootings

…and there is no possible way to make a joke here.

Parkland 5457

Following on from the latest school shooting atrocity in the USA, I have been engaged in numerous polemics on various social media as the predictable – and wholly justifiable –  outcry has arisen.

No sane person can fail to be horrified by the shootings at Parkland (and Newtown, and Aurora and San Bernadino and etc etc etc…) back to Columbine in 1999, often seen as the start of the ‘modern’ epidemic of school mass murders in the USA.

In fact this is not really true, arguably the first ‘modern’ mass school shooting in the US was in 1966, when Charles Whitman a former marine suffering from mental illness (probably associated with a brain tumor) killed his mother and wife, climbed to the top of the ‘Texas Tower’ at the University of Texas in Austin and over a period of  96 minutes  killed an additional 15 people and wounded 31 using a hunting rifle, before he was shot and killed by Law Enforcement. As a result of this terrible event, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams began to be developed throughout the American Law Enforcement Community. But I digress.

It’s easy enough to use Google to dig up all kinds of statistics on mass shootings in the US. In the early 90s, there was a spate of workplace related shootings, several of which involved disgruntled Postal workers, resulting in the phrase ‘going postal’.

Historically it has not just been a US problem. There was a mass shooting at a school in Dunblane in Scotland in 1996, which resulted in handguns being pretty much outlawed in the UK.

About a month later, 35 people were murdered in Port Arthur Tasmania, another mass shooting that resulted in semiautomatic firearms being outlawed in Australia and about 600,000 guns being bought back from the population by the Australian Government. There have been mass shootings at schools in many countries, and mass murders at schools in other countries with knives, machetes and so forth.

But nothing like the epidemic that has soiled the USA. For years, lawmakers, commentators and concerned citizens have agonized about how to deal with the problem.

However, amongst the most predictable – and useless – comments I have seen are the myriad versions of ‘we have to outlaw guns now!!’

The well meaning idiots who promote this impossibility (at least as far as the US is concerned) may as well call for the abolition of automobiles, which still kill tens of thousands people a year in the States. It ain’t gonna happen.

They would be far better off to call for meaningful changes to the Gun Control regime in the US. Until recently I would have said that was an impossibility as well, but I am amazed and heartened at the backlash from the Florida shootings, the brave students fearlessly taking on the establishment despite being lambasted as ‘false news’ as it seems that even the Buffoon in Chief, recipient of US$30 Million in NRA Campaign funds and licensed CCW permit holder has recently put gun control back on the Agenda.

It seems it is all to play for, assuming the Orange Bouffant One doesn’t do a 180 tomorrow. Update – it took him about 3 weeks.

Back to my rant on gun control.

So what should concerned people be looking for?

Let’s start with some background:

NY Times Article Graphic

Here’s a good article from the NY Times (from which I stole the above graphic) which discusses the demographic factors related to the prevalence of mass shootings in the US.

Some of the facts are wrong, or perhaps incomplete is a better word. For example, this article makes no mention of military weapons, which are uncountable. I have read from various sources that there is probably about one military weapon in existence for every human on the planet. The best example of this of course is the ubiquitous AK – 47. The concern of course is the huge number in the hands of irregular military, African Militias, Terrorist Groups. Perhaps this is a criticism of the article above – we don’t count a hundred Nigerian schoolkids shot by Boko Haram as a school shooting.

Perhaps we should? The kids are just as dead. No that’s terrorism, a different subject – or is it really? But I digress.

Before I get onto what I feel are the most important aspects of a sensible gun control regime, I want to make a point about the AR-15 rifle, the deadly ‘assault rifle’ (it isn’t really since it is not selective fire – ie full auto)  used so extensively for mass murder in the US.

Besides the high rate of fire, the capability to accept high capacity magazines and the ease of use, even for an unpracticed shooter, what really sets this weapon apart is the terminal ballistics of the bullet projected from the round it fires – the NATO 5.56 x 45 round or it’s civilian counterpart, the Remington .223, and in particular the capability of the bullet for Wound Trauma Incapacitation (WTI), often referred to -wrongly – as ‘stopping power’.

This term is a simple way of saying that when you shoot somebody or something. you want them to stop shooting back (or charging in the case of a dangerous animal) as soon as possible. Digressing slightly, one of the ways the military is trained to accomplish this is by a firing technique known as a ‘double-tap’ (I don’t have to explain that to anyone who watches movies – but it is devilish hard to learn to do for real with any handgun larger than a .22 Cal) or by an even more effective technique developed in the 19th C by the British Army during an East African War when they were faced with fanatic, drugged up and very persistent warriors – the ‘Mozambique’.

Simply put, a ‘Mozambique’ is two in the chest and one in the head. Not easy to keep coming after that and one of the modern combat shooting  sports, IDPA, requires Mozambiques on a lot of its target scenarios. The other major combat shooting sport IPSC generally requires double taps in it’s anthropomorphic targets. Both of these disciplines require licensing and extensive training to be allowed to participate. I hold both IPSC Black Badge and IDPA Black Shield qualifications which puts me at legal beginner level in these sports and also about 100 times more qualified than most gun owners in the USA.

A further quick digression – the 5.56 X 45 NATO round is not the same as the Remington .223. Weapons chambered in 5.56 X 45 NATO will all safely fire the Remington .223 but the reverse is not true for all rifles chambered in .223.

So what makes the terminal ballistics of the 5.56 X 45 (and the very similar .223) so deadly in terms of WTI?

Firearms experts use a carefully concocted substance called ballistic gelatin to model the effects of a bullet strike on flesh. When properly made it mimics the characteristics of muscle tissue and can be useful in determining the effects of a bullet strike.

When a bullet strike flesh, or ballistic gelatin, there are three types of deformation.

There is the bullet path, which basically creates a hole, there is the temporary cavity, which is tissue that moves out of the way and moves back and has generally not been seriously damaged – and then there is the permanent cavity which is tissue beyond the bullet path that is basically destroyed by the strike.

Here is the wound path of a 9×19 round – a typical jacketed 9 mm handgun round – in ballistic gelatin (the bottom scale is depth of penetration in cm).

Unless this bullet strike intersects your major cardiovascular organs or your central nervous system most of the tissue deformation is survivable provided you get prompt medical care. You will spend some time in hospital and walk out.

For comparison, this is the NATO 7.62 X 51 round, as fired by older military rifles like the M 14 and the M – 60 machine gun.  This is the typical ‘Full Metal Jacket’ of yore.

m80

And everyone’s favorite terror weapon, the 7.62 X 39 round fired by an AK – 47

ak47

And here is the ballistic path of a 5.56 X 45 NATO round, as fired by an AR – 15 or similar rifle. Beyond about 200 yards the bullet has slowed down enough that it typically produces wound paths similar to those above, however, at close range the bullet tumbles and fragments and you get the following horrific damage.

M855 5.56mm NATO wound (49k gif)

This bullet was designed to tumble and fragment.  You don’t walk away from this. It blows a hole like a hand grenade through whatever it hits.

I have no desire to ever be hit by a bullet of any kind, but if I ever have that misfortune, I know which one of these very common rounds I don’t want to be hit with. Arguably this round has no business in civilian hands.

And for any of you geeks who may want to learn more on the subject, I recommend this site.

In any event, I hope that the foregoing gives my readers some idea of why the AR – 15 platform is such a devastating weapon. And if you don’t believe me…

So let’s look at some ideas that may actually make a difference. This is from a post I shared from a friend on Facebook, which prompted a lot of useful debate. I agree entirely with all of these points, made by a man who has spent a large part of his working career trying to make a difference within the bounds of the current legal system in the US.

School Safety Ideas Nobody Wants to Talk About
  1. Fatherlessness needs to be addressed. Kids need dads- most shooters don’t have an involved dad. Can we connect boys without fathers to father-figure mentors? This is also a theme in the inner-city, less-publicized, yet more-frequent gun crimes in minority communities.
  2. Adults need to be held accountable. The Parkland shooting in February is ‘Exhibit A’ on that. Dozens of adults at the school, local law enforcement agencies, and even the FBI knew about this kid and what he said he was going to do. Another adult, the SRO on duty, could have stopped it while it was happening but never went in. How many adults around this situation will be charged with crimes like negligence or manslaughter for their blatant failures? My guess is zero. How many will lose their jobs? My guess is zero. Nobody does anything because you risk nothing by doing nothing and get in trouble if you take a proactive approach and try to do address things before the blood is spilled. This is up and down our education and law enforcement systems.
  3. Boys need safe environments to fight and let out their physical aggression. Young men involved in physically violent sports like football, wrestling, karate, etc. typically do not become mass murderers. I feel like our present culture is trying to take the fight out of our boys, but it’s still hard-wired into them. Where no healthy outlets for this natural aggression exist, unhealthy ones will take their place. We need to stop shaming our boys and applying negative labels to boys who have a strong urge to fight. We need to guide and encourage them to find a healthy outlet, not tell them they’re broken or bad.
  4. The role of pharmaceutical drugs in mass shootings needs to be thoroughly investigated. It’s too common a theme to be ignored as a potential factor. Too many of our kids are getting drugged up instead of getting the care they really need. Right on the labels of these mood-altering drugs are side effects like “Hallucinations- loss of contact with reality.” and “Suicidal thoughts.” Yet we don’t immediately ask about the prescriptions these kids are on, instead focusing on what kind of gun they used.
  5. Training kids to huddle together as stationary targets on the ground, HAS TO STOP. It’s stupid and getting our kids killed in greater numbers during these events. If they can’t get in a secured room separated from the shooter, they need to run or fight, period. Get out the window or tackle the shooter etc are all way better things to teach. There are great programs to better train our kids on how to react to this threat.
  6. Empower and encourage teachers and school administrators to have a plan, have the support of the district, and secure their classrooms the way they’re comfortable with. Too many wonderful teachers with hearts of lions for protecting their kids are fearful bringing up their desires to their bosses whom will point to policy and liability concerns over common-sense solutions the teacher needs and wants. Teachers, if you don’t get the support you need, do what you need to do anyways quietly. Damn the system. Keep our kids safe. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer here, but all kinds of things could help like: ways to block/harden doors, weapons (gun or non-gun) to have a fighting chance if a shooter makes it through the door, and additional escape options like rope ladders for 2nd story windows teachers can deploy, etc. We can’t have a cop everywhere and even if we do, there’s no guarantee they won’t be taking their sweet time outside like the Parkland SRO did while your class is in the crosshairs. Teachers are right there and the first line of defense and they need to think about it and take it seriously and not get in trouble if they do.
  7. Finally, and most importantly, we need to improve the culture of our nation and our schools. We need to value human life highly. We need love. We need kindness. We need compassion. We need to look for the kids that are becoming isolated and need help and go help them. We need more than just anger at what’s wrong, we need to celebrate the good stories and champions of kindness. Kids that care for one another don’t kill each other. We need to touch the hearts of kids and train them up in morality and virtue- not just pack their heads full of information. This is exactly what we focused on when I worked for Rachel’s Challenge, one of the top anti-violence programs in the country, and we saw tons of lives saved by changing the culture of schools from the inside out, (would-be-shooters with kill lists turning themselves in, gang members laying down their colors, suicides planned for that night canceled, etc.) Invite them to your school as a great way to start this cultural transformation.

I think this bloke has it right on,

To the above list I would add a couple of things taken from Canadian gun laws and a couple of ideas of my own.

Safe Storage

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention there were 495 accidental firearms deaths in the USA during 2016. Between 1999 and 2016 there were 11,428 accidental firearm deaths.  You can look it up yourself at the link posted in this paragraph.

I believe a great many of these deaths could be prevented by safe storage laws, requiring firearms to be kept with trigger locks, or in locked cabinets or gun safes and thus safe from curious children and people unqualified to handle firearms.

Here’s  photo of my own setup at SDM in Canada. This is inside my bedroom closet, is made of 14 gauge steel with 5 X 1 in stainless steel deadbolts, is fireproof and has a pushbutton code lock on the door that lets me get into it in about 5 seconds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

No unauthorized person is gonna get their hands on one of my firearms. This is a legal requirement in Canada (2 to 5 year prison term for unsafe storage) and should be so in the USA. Enough of 7 year old kids getting hold of grand-dad’s pistol and shooting a sibling.

Case in point. I am heartened to learn she was charged under Florida law, even if it is only a misdemeanor.

Education and Licensing

I was originally taught to shoot and to handle firearms by my father, who was a hunter and a pretty good shot. However, he was a bit weak on firearms safety and kept half a dozen or so loaded pistols lying around the house. The rifles and shotguns were all stacked in a corner of the ‘good living room’, ammunition conveniently at hand.

Of course, by the time I was thirteen I had learned where the pistols were and had also taught myself to handle them. I still have a scar on my thumb from when I tried to fire a semi-auto .22 cal pistol (smuggled out of the house while the old man was out), using the two-handed grip that Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin used on ‘The Man From Uncle’.  It never occurred to me to keep my thumb out of the way of the slide when the firearm discharged. Never seemed to bother Napoleon and Ilya.

I am pretty sure that this is a good example of the way most Americans learn their firearm skills, although I am very pleased to note that Ilya kept his finger off the trigger.  You can find lots of examples of ‘gun fails’ on Youtube, most of them advertised as funny. Personally I don’t find any of them funny, but they are perhaps indicative of the level of competence of many people who own firearms.

When I started Secondary School in 1965 it was still a requirement that all boys in the school joined the Cadet Corps – The Princess of Wales Own Regiment Cadet Corps (unless exempted on parental or religious grounds).

I embraced this wholeheartedly and was commissioned a Lieutenant, platoon commander in my first year and Captain, company commander in my second. We got to wear uniforms, march around the school parking lot while the girls were in Home Economics and play with guns a lot (in a controlled and safe way), and while it may seem very strange to youngsters today, the school actually had a rifle range in the basement.

For the first two years I was in secondary school I fired a hundred rounds of .22 Cal LR on the range every night after school, using  a war surplus Lee Enfield bolt-action rifle converted from .303 British to .22. I got to be a pretty good shot. I could field strip and reassemble a Bren Gun blindfolded in under a minute.

The WWII veteran in charge of the PWOR Cadet Corp (he taught shop in his day job) stressed firearms safety and even ran an extracurricular Hunter Safety Course which taught safe handling of weapons and was a requirement for a hunting license. I went on from that to individual coaching in Marksmanship and by the end of my first year in Secondary School I had earned a Canadian Army Marksman Rating.

Sadly, these programmes no longer exist. So kids (and adults) learn about firearms from Hollywood, from Youtube and from first person shooter games.  Thus 500 deaths per year in the USA from ‘accidental’ discharges.

I firmly believe that knowledge of safe firearm handling practices is a necessary part of the education of any well rounded human being.

In addition, anyone who wants to own a firearm must be qualified to handle it and this requires education and licensing (including background checks) as is done in Canada.

The USA desperately needs to introduce licensing requirements for ownership of firearms (which would include background checks), not just for CCW permits. You can’t drive a car without a license, why is an even more potentially deadly technology dealt with in such a haphazard and unregulated way? (rhetorical question – the answer is the NRA).

My own suggestion

I will go further and state that firearms safety should be reintroduced in school curricula. Kids need to learn about the reality of firearms. Kids also need to be taught – perhaps through demonstration or specially designed courses what the devastating effect of a firearm strike on a living being looks like. I think this would go a long way towards putting off potential school shooters. Of course, this sort of approach will never be acceptable to ‘progressives’.

Conclusion

I don’t really have one except to note that in the three weeks or so I have been fooling around thinking about this and pecking at the keyboard, the initial impetus after Parkland to increase control regimes in the US has died away and it looks like things will go back to SNAFU – Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.

I hope I am wrong, but I doubt it.

Posted in Other people's trout, Really scary salmon with great big teeth that hurt like hell when they bite you, This is not a cat video type trout, Trout on the Line | Leave a comment

Anomalies – Part 2

They just keep getting better

Apologies for the length of time between substantive posts, too much time enjoying the Canadian summer, the Hong Kong Autumn and a lot of heavy sailing and a nice Christmas at SDM, plus a sailing adventure in Boracay that is embargoed after my last post about the place 2 years ago.

When I left off on the subject of anomalies, I was pontificating about Egypt (specifically the age of the Great Sphinx).

Pyramids from 94 video

A Word on the ‘Great’ Pyramids and More

Before I move on from my Egyptian experiences, I want to share a few thoughts on the three Great Pyramids.

Of course we’ve all seen pictures of them, seen them in movies and so forth, but until you have actually seen the things for yourself you simply cannot appreciate the scale of them.  The images of them on the Net don’t do them justice as they are usually all shot in isolation with nothing in frame to indicate their size.

The picture above is a screen grab taken from video I shot when I was there in December 1994. It was shot at maximum digital zoom (64 X) on what was then a state-of-the-art Sony video camera and was taken from the window of my hotel room which was approximately 13 kilometers from the site.

They are quite simply gigantic and were the tallest man made objects on earth until the spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed about 1300 AD (that’s assuming that they weren’t built by space aliens).

They are not only much greater in size than other Egyptian pyramids, they are greatly different in character – most of the other pyramids are little more than piles of rubble.

The bit about the space aliens was a joke, BTW – I am not trying to support that rather outlandish view – but when you compare the ‘Great’ pyramids to the other Egyptian pyramids they are certainly anomalous.

Twenty-five years ago I was convinced the the Great Pyramids were probably evidence of an unknown civilization,  however more recent work has supported a prosaic explanation, as archaeologists have excavated the camps (and even found records) of the skilled workers who built them over many years. Or at least they claim to have done so.

The same is not true of the Sphinx though, a true anomaly and even though this is a ‘but I digress again’ moment I have hoked up this graphic, just to put it in perspective.

History timeline

Suck on this Zahi Hawass

I adapted that graphic above from this excellent post putting the timeline of the universe human history and existence into perspective. Yes I know the graphic is hard to read – click on Ctrl + to blow it up. Enough digression (for the time being).

A Personal Ghost Story

ghostbusters

I ain’t afraid of no Ghost

Cumberland_Lodge

This is Cumberland Lodge, a 17th Century Grade II listed Heritage Building located in the grounds of Windsor Great Park, about a half-hour hike to the South of Windsor Castle, outside London. It is named after Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

‘Stinking Billy’ as the Scots nicknamed him, is best remembered for his role in putting down the Jacobite Rising at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, which made him immensely popular throughout Britain but, not surprisingly, not very well liked in the Hieeelands. Even some of his English contemporaries  called him ‘Butcher’ Cumberland.

Here is a brief history of Cumberland Lodge, which notes that the last official private occupant of the Lodge was The Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent, the last Lord Lieutenant of Ireland before the Republic gained independence. This history also mentions other illustrious past residents, including Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, and his wife, Princess Helena, the fifth child and third daughter of Queen Victoria. It makes no mention of their daughter (one of Queen Victoria’s 42 grandchildren), Princess Victoria Louise Sophia Augusta Amelia Helena of Schleswig-Holstein,  generally called Princess Helena Victoria, nicknamed ‘Thora,’ or ‘Snipe’. Thora spent her reportedly happy childhood at Cumberland Lodge and apparently maintained an apartment there until her death in London. She was buried at the Royal Cemetery near Frogmore House, a couple of miles North of Cumberland Lodge.

pss_helena_victoria

I am pretty sure I had the privilege of meeting her on a sunny Saturday afternoon in March 1991, almost exactly 43 years after her death in 1948. She was not amused.

In early 1991, while I was working for the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, one of my projects involved drafting the framework for a Law (or an Ordinance as they are called in HK), to provide a framework for formalizing the Environmental Impact Assessment Process:  “An Ordinance to provide for assessing the impact on the environment of certain projects and proposals, for protecting the environment and for incidental matters”.

I came across a notice of a week long professional course being held in March 1991 at Cumberland Lodge on the subject of Environmental Impact Assessment and Law and I persuaded my boss to send me off to it – not a hard sell as it was end of financial year and as usual we were looking for ways to spend the remaining money in our Duty Visit Budget, ‘use it or lose it’ as any civil servant will know.

So off I jetted in the first week of March, to that Green and Pleasant Land, where I spent the next six days in one of the 60 wonderfully appointed bedrooms in the Lodge, enjoying the lectures and discussions, the meals, the evening events and the 50 or so other professional environmentalists from all over the world. But I digress.

The schedule was full and the boss wanted me back in HK ASAP as we had a lot of work on at the time. I had one free evening, the Saturday after the course ended and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

The previous year, I had had the extreme pleasure of meeting a young lady, a classic English Rose, who was visiting from the UK with a girlfriend in HK. I had previously had a brief fling with the girlfriend, but it went nowhere although we remained friends, more or less. She introduced me to the Rose (whom I shall call Rose). I was blown away by her beauty, intelligence and wild sense of humour and we started an entertaining and flirtatious correspondence when she flew back to England.

I had caught up with her briefly in Phuket in December 1990 – she was on a holiday with her lovely parents and I had just finished an adventure, delivering a Yacht from HK. I knew I wanted to see more of this raven-tressed, emerald-eyed stunningly curvaceous and fascinating beauty so the first thing I did after checking into Cumberland Lodge in March 1991 was call her and ask if she was free for dinner the following Saturday, the last and only free evening I was to have on the Duty Visit.

“Ah,” she said, “No, I have something on”. 

My heart sank…

“…but I will call him and put it off.”

We arranged that she would drive in from her home in Winchester (she sang in the Choir at Winchester Cathedral) the following Saturday after my course ended and pick me up at the Lodge. We’d go back to Winchester, have dinner, she’d put me up in her spare room and drop me at Heathrow the following afternoon for my flight back to HK.

As they like to say in Canadia…‘Poifect’.

She turned up late Saturday morning – I had given her license plate number to the guards at the Windsor Great Park South-East entrance at the Fox and Hounds Pub and so she drove straight to the Lodge where I was waiting and we had a slightly awkward reunion.

We went for a walk on the Great Park grounds and as we were crossing the footbridge from Windsor Castle across the Thames into Eton, heart pounding, I reached out and held her hand and…

There was a 10,000 volt electric shock and our awkwardness disappeared. I remember her leaning into me and the rest is a blur…

Until we got back to the Lodge. We loaded my gear into her car, then…

“Say, Rose” I asked, “Would you like a tour of the Lodge?”

Since her business was sales and marketing manager of a publishing house specialising in high-end illustrated guidebooks for Cathedrals and heritage buildings it didn’t take a lot of effort to persuade her. We wandered the vast, empty building (the other participants in my course and most of the staff had left in the morning), admiring the art, the architecture and each other. No question, cupid’s arrow had struck both ways and, dare I say it, we were falling in love.

cumberland_lodge_rededication_of_the_chapel_3rd_jan_2015_copyright_gill_aspel_37_of_56

We looked through an inviting doorway and walked, holding hands and buzzing on each other, into the room pictured above – the Chapel at Cumberland Lodge. About 1430 in the afternoon, March 9, 1991 and the sun was streaming through the West facing windows, the room warm and welcoming, dust motes dancing in the sunbeams, until…

The dust motes froze. We both felt the temperature drop as if the room had been plunged into liquid nitrogen. We both stumbled as a wave of cold and hate and resentment hit us and we stopped, looked at each other and wordlessly backed out into the hallway shuddering.

I didn’t have to ask if she had felt the same thing. We were both very shaken. I asked anyway,

“Did you feel that?”

“Yes,” she said, “what was that?”

“I don’t know”.

We backed away carefully down the hallway and two doors down there was an office door open and a guy bent over a desk inside. I knocked on the door-frame.

“Excuse me” I said, “My friend and I were just touring through the Lodge and something funny happened in the Chapel down the hall, do you know anything about that room? “

“Ah,” he said, “That room has an interesting history.”

It turns out that the bloke was the in-house Cumberland Lodge historian, working overtime on a Saturday afternoon. He related to us that the Chapel had formerly been part of the apartments – the sitting room in fact – of none other than our late friend Princess Helena Victoria. Apparently after her death, childless and bitter, the occupants of the Lodge had found the atmosphere in that room so depressing that it had been converted into a chapel in an attempt to lighten things up, to lay the ghost so to speak.

While Thora is not part of the usual litany of ghost stories that are related to guests at the Lodge (a murdered servant girl who wanders the halls at night, a former stablehand in what is now the conference center I recall), I have no doubt that’s who Rose and I ran into. She really did not like her peace and quiet disturbed by this (dare I say it) handsome young couple wandering in on her, buzzing with romance and passion, and she let us know in no uncertain terms.

Some Experiences with Telepathy

Doc Brown

Do you know what this means, young man?

We’ve all had the experience of feeling someone is watching you, only to turn around, and… sure enough – eye contact with someone behind you.

Rupert Sheldrake a British biologist and paranormal researcher has done a lot of amazing work on this phenomenon and others related to telepathy which he puts down to something he calls ‘Morphic Resonance‘.

My two favorite experiments are one with dogs that know when their owners are coming home and another which published three short Japanese verses in the Los Angeles Brain/Mind Bulletin. One was a nursery rhyme which has been learned by untold millions of Japanese children over the centuries, the second a specially commissioned modern verse by a Japanese poet, and the third merely Japanese sounding gibberish. Readers were invited to try to memorise them and report which were easier to learn. Not  surprisingly, the real nursery rhyme proved much easier for English speakers to learn than the other two. Here is a link to a pretty good article about Sheldrake’s work.

Rose and I had a pretty strong telepathic bond. I would know when she wanted me to call or was about to call me and vice versa. I often get the same thing with close family members and I am sure most people are used to this phenomenon.

Dubn Pirate 1991

The evening when that photo was taken I was at a ‘Pirate Party’ at RHKYC where I had just won a bottle of champagne for ‘Best Pirate Costume – Local Division’ (I sprayed brown skin coloring on, died my hair and mustache black and picked up a couple of cheap plastic toy swords), when I suddenly realized she was trying to get in touch with me. I bailed on the party and bolted home to find a couple of fairly frantic messages from her on the answering machine (pre-cellphone days), about what I haven’t got a monkey’s but it was important at the time.

Very anecdotal and not evidence of very much, my skeptical ex-brother in law and slightly less skeptical physics prof brother would no doubt assert (my brother has been getting a little less skeptical lately – after all he deals with quantum physics where lots of spooky stuff is normal).

Again, we have all had many of these experiences through life. In fact, if you ever look into the Rosicrucians, and get interested enough to join, as I did in the early 90s, you will be given written lessons on how to develop these ‘powers’. I resigned after I discovered a much faster way to study these mysteries through Reiki. According to most ‘credible’ sources Reiki is a pseudo science and quackery. Same people who told me dowsing was BS. But I (as usual) digress… I’ll come back to Reiki in a future post.

Last telepathy experience for this post, time I wrapped this up:

Anyone who, gawd knows why, follows this blog will know that I am a paranoid gun nut with enough legally acquired and fully licensed firepower back in the armory at SDM to stand off a platoon of Spetsnaz Commandos for quite some time. This is only part of the security at the place as I also have remotely monitored alarms and, more relevant to this post, remotely monitored video coverage of the property and the front entrance hallway. I must admit I don’t pay a lot of attention to it but it is useful and my tenant T, who you may recall from my UFO post in 2015 appreciates the security it yields.

When I first rented the place to her in late summer 2014, we agreed she would move in a couple of days into September, I gave her the keys and the alarm codes, briefed her on all of the systems and buggered off back to the 852 before she actually moved in.

A couple of days after I got back, not having heard from her, I had a little remote snoop.

It was clear they had moved in, T and her (at the time) four year old daughter  L (plus their dog N – name not in clear to protect the dog’s privacy, of course).

SDM Cam 1 2014 09 04 184724 L crop

L thought the place was great – I agree with her – and she ran around checking it out. This is a screenshot from the video playback showing  when they actually moved in. Obviously I have blocked out her face. She’s a cute, intelligent and thoughful kid and will be a heartbreaker like her mom in the fullness of time. But once again I digress.

When I first started my snoop that morning in HK, I tuned into the live feed. The lights were on in the entrance hall and the lounge, someone was there… good!

I switched through the five cameras.

SDM Cam 2 2014 09 04 214058 screen

This is a screenshot of the feed from SDM Camera 2, which looks out the lounge window onto the front lawn and the walkaway to the front door, taken at 0940 hrs, HK time on 5th September 2014, or about 2240 hrs on the evening of September 4 SDM time.

Since it is dark outside, what it mainly shows is the reflection in the window glass of the lounge. The black rectangle in the upper left corner is the reflection of the camera, the blue recording light on the camera reflected in a couple of panes of glass (I have double glazing). The four white lights on the left are the solar powered courtesy lights on the front sidewalk, the reflection of the curtains in the middle and on the right, a reflection of the back SE corner of the lounge bounced off the mirror over the fireplace. a portion of bookshelf to the right lower just beside the fireplace.

The double reflection from the SE corner of the room shows a big old antique Tibetan cabinet, with a couple of my real antique Katanas on top of it, the big old lamp and some Chinese porcelain on top of the cabinet, some artwork on the walls and just below the lamp, the back corner of the couch which faces the TV, not in picture.

I watched the live feed for 30 seconds or so, trying to work out what I was looking at, going through the thoughts I have just set out above.

And just as I realised what I was seeing, there was movement on the couch below the lamp.

“My god,” I thought, “That’s T on the couch watching the tube, with L on her lap… how sweet is that?!?” 

Then this happened. Unfortunately the cameras only record once a second and the video missed the movement that made me realize what I was seeing, but it certainly caught what happened next. I confirmed it with her by email a day or so later. Sitting there, watching some kiddie video or something, daughter on her lap, she suddenly felt that someone was watching her through the window and jumped up, ran over and slammed the curtain shut.

Explain that one James Randi. They’ve been in the house about 4 hours, they’re relaxed and comfortable, buzzing on mother – daughter love, receptive… and 1 second after I realise I am watching them real time, T feels it and jumps up and closes the curtains cause she feels me watching them.

“Coincidence” snorts Randi and my ex-brother in law. What are the odds of that? Pretty damned unlikely I would have to say and if I run some numbers – four hours equals 14,400 seconds and 1 second after I focus my attention T reacts. So about 15,000 to 1. I think not.

I thought I would finish this series with this post but I realize I have a couple more personal yarns to record, automatic writing, some rather amazing channeling experiences and, as promised, Reiki.

So watch this space, and keep your eyes on the sky.

 

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One Minute Movie Review: Peaky Blinders

Okay, so it’s a Series not a movie
peaky-blinders
I’ve watched the whole Sopranos series at least twice, same with Boardwalk Empire, and have been mulling over going back and watching them again.
But that ain’t gonna happen while there are still episodes of this beauty that I haven’t seen, and re-seen.
Wow, a Black Country Tony and his boys and girls, waltzing along like a half-gypsy Nucky and his mad opponents, set in post WW1 Birmingham, England and environs. Vicious Belfast SIS Agents and Jewish gangsters with Cockney accents, IRA scum, Chinese hookers, stolen Lewis guns and rigged horse races, PTSD Tommies, beautiful undercover agents – in more ways than one, a bloody good Winston Churchill, even an appealing (if somewhat Sopranos derivative) music score… and that’s just in the first half of Season 1.
Enough, don’t waste any time reading my crap, go fire it up on Netflix right now. I’m going back to it now.
Updated 1 February 2018
So now I have had the chance to watch Seasons 2, 3 and 4.

This series just gets better and better, with ever more complex plots, surprises, incredible cinematic violence, hate and revenge.

What more could a cinephile want, eh?

I can’t wait for Season 5. This is right up there with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, the Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and of course the unbeatable champion of dark TV, Game of Thrones.

I must however, be somewhat critical of Adrien Brodie’s performance in Season 4 as New York gangster Luca Changretta. Whether it was he or the director who was responsible, channelling Marlon Brando in the Godfather, complete to hand gestures, gravelly voice and cheek scratching, this character came across as parody.  Out of place in this entirely otherwise wonderful series. They must have had to shoot umpteen takes to stop the giggling amongst the production crew. The only Godfather paean they left out was ‘I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse’ and that was alluded to in the plot.

However, on balance one of the all time great gangster series and I will probably watch the whole thing again before the next one is released.

And I sincerely hope we see Tom Hardy back in the next series, playing incredibly tough and nasty Jewish – Cockney gangster Alfie Solomons, ‘Yes mate, I like you but if you don’t sign everything over to me I will shoot you in the face (Season 2)’.
Yes, his return is up in the air but when (spoiler alert) Tommy shot him in the last episode on the sands at Margate, it looked to me like the round only blew out part of his left jaw and the muscles of his neck. I hope he recovers to come back and plot more devious evil. I hope his dog Cyril is okay
Two thumbs up as Roger Ebert would no doubt have said.
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One Minute Movie Review

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

rocky-horror-remake

I watched this shivery, savory, slippery, updated, undead creature of the last night with great antici….

… pation, and it was, in a word fabulous, an absolute hoot from the opening scenes right through to inevitable tragic conclusion, in many ways and many scenes a slick improvement on the original (not a replacement)!

Full of heaps of subtle new jokes (watch Brad after he shakes hands with Ralph at the wedding) with all of the old favorites reprised (and often deftly respun), the musical performances are outstanding (particularly the delectable Usherette in the new opening movie theater scene).

Laverne Cox as the mad Dr. Frank and Janet and Eddie, Magenta and Columbia are all outstanding – and as pointed out in the full review in the link below, this 21st C Riff-Raff appears to be channelling Richard O’brien, the original ‘faithful handyman’. It was somewhat sad, but in some ways exhilarating to watch Tim Curry gamely fighting the effects of his 2013 stroke as the Criminologist.

Dr Scott was, in my view, an improvement on the original. Rocky was just as beautiful and buff, confused and afraid and altogether fascinating as he used to be, although like the reviewer below, I wasn’t keen on the gold gangsta shorts.

One of the best touches was the theater audience, throwing toilet rolls and holding newspapers over their head, as my friends and I used to do back in the day. (Harrumph) youth today though, all goth and can’t be bothered to dress as their favorites, like we did.

My only real issue with it was that Laverne Cox, while she has Frank’s voice and mannerisms absolutely perfect (Oh Rocky!) is just too damn straight katooey sexy, too feminine, a slightly jarring and not altogether welcome departure from Curry’s confused and vulnerable sexuality, whatever it was. Of course, in 1975, a sweet transexual, transvestite Transylvanian, was pretty shocking, as opposed to today’s fully PC transgender version.

Not to be missed. The next time I see this I want to be sitting up there in the back row alongside that usherette. Woof. Maybe I can drag her up on the dance floor for a little time warping of my own.

A fairly balanced review here

And my favorite: Is this great? Or what???
First reader to identify the famous actor playing the projectionist gets a free BBQ dinner at SDM (of course you’ve got to get to SDM to collect).
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Victory at Ostrander Point!

As a follow up to ‘we’re all gonna die part 3…

CCSAGE Naturally Green

Congratulations to Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and to their lawyer, Eric Gillespie, and his team.

Fittingly, on the anniversary of D-Day the Environmental Review Panel found that the remedial measures proposed by Gilead and by our Government were not acceptable and revoked Gilead’s Renewable Energy Approval for seven turbines, all to have been located on Government land and within a designated Important Bird Area.

All that now remains is for Premier Wynne to grasp the nettle and kill the project once and for all.

The proposed project made no sense from the get-go. But even so it took hundreds of thousands of dollars of money from County residents without benefit of tax receipts and six years of PECFN courage and persistence to achieve the result that should have been obvious even to the closed minds at Queen’s Park.

Much of the reasoning and precedents cited in the Gilead ERT…

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