Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hayley's general observations

The following are a small number of general observations that I have made throughout the week. You should note that most are made with great irony or sarcasm. I'm very much a people watcher and I'm laid back with my opinions in the sense that I wont tell you that you are annoying me to your face if I don't know you - I'll store it in my head and it will probably end up here. I will tell you if you are annoying me if I do know you, I will also probably take the piss out of you and things you do, but it's because I love you. I'm going to try and post a general observation blog every week.

My quote of the week has been:
"Don't let the bastards get you down!" -- Great gran 1990

* If I am wearing what appear to be sunglasses when it's cold, rainy and generally not sunny then the chances are that they're actually reaction lenses on a normal pair of prescription glasses and that I'm not an idiot wearing sunglasses when it's not sunny. So making general snarky comments about me wearing sunglasses when it isn't sunny actually makes you look a bit dim. Har har. 

* When your train pulls into the station and there are four of you waiting to get on said train and you can see that it's completely empty there is no need to push in front of everyone else using your fat arse as some sort of a crowd control device because there isn't going to be a problem finding a seat. This is what happened to me on Monday. I don't like being shoved aside by someone elses butt.

* When your train has pulled into the station and there are those few seconds where you wait for the light next to the door to illuminate, crowding around the door is only going to lead to further problems when people try to get off of the train. Problems such as you getting my shopping bags in your face as I push past you. 

* If you stand in the wrong line in a store and get told to join the line that I am standing in, trying to join the line half way into it isn't going to be looked upon very well by the people you are pushing in front of. Don't be shocked if they tell you to move. 

* When you go to a lecture called 'Disinformation within UFOlogy' don't get offended when the talk is about disinformation within UFOlogy. If part of that same lecture is about the down side of ad hominem attacks and logical fallacies the worst thing you can do is then ad hom the person giving the lecture, or structure your argument on logical fallacy after logical fallacy.

*If you are mean and nasty and a bitter old woman and you wear red shoes, I will name you 'The wicked witch of the East prior to Dorothy's arrival' in my head. Forever.

* As I sat in my local doctors surgery waiting room on Friday I was shocked to notice on the wall a poster advertising homeopathy, reflexology and other alt med therapies. When I went into the doctors room he had a collection of old tools used in medicine within the last hundred years - some of which actually looked rather scary. He noted 'It's interesting to see how far science and medicine has advanced over the years' and I guiltily couldn't take him seriously because of the homeopathy advert I had seen just outside of his office.

Last, but not least:

*When you tell people you have social anxiety they're more likely to understand you than you might think. I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of people I've never really spoken to before who have sent me supportive messages in the last few days. It's really appreciated.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Sham ghosts and the people who talk to them

I recently read a blog post for the CFI that spoke of how the television show 'Ghost Hunters International' had, on one of their shows made contact with what they claimed was the spirit of a woman reputed to haunt the location they had visited. The strange thing was that the woman said to haunt the location was actually a fictional character meaning that GHI had either:

a) Done the impossible, or,
b) Not done their homework (naughty, naughty them...)

The episode was called ‘The legend of Rose Hall” and it aired last week as the thirteenth episode of the second season. Rose Hall isn’t a person but in fact a place and the building is said to be haunted by the ghost of an evil woman named Annie Palmer who is often referred to as “The White Witch of Rose Hall.”

According to Ben Radford who wrote the revealing article for the Fortean Times and the Centre for Inquiry blog:
Annie was “beautiful beyond compare; she had a rich throaty voice with black penetrating eyes… Her complexion was smooth, and she could shift from a gentle smiling creature to a haughty, cruel, sensual, cat-like woman, gracefully exuding both anger and sensuality. Annie had strength besides her cruelty. She had the power of a mind trained in sorcery. She believed in spirits and had the ability to project death fears in her slaves.” As a young girl living in Haiti she had apparently become the favourite of a high voodoo priestess.

Apparently, she made her way through four husbands who all died in mysterious circumstances Annie not only left a trail of dead husbands; she also delighted in acts of unspeakable cruelty and perversion. Annie’s sadism was legendary, her wrath feared by all. She was said to enjoy watching the slaves being whipped from her balcony. Once, when a servant displeased her, Annie had the poor fellow’s head cut off and placed on a bamboo stake, left to rot in the tropical sun as a warning to others.

During their time at Rose Hall the GHI team claimed to contact a spirit they believed to be Annie Palmer through the various pseudo-scientific methods that they use and pass off as scientific. However it isn’t the pseudoscience involved in their show that I want to focus upon in this case. It’s actually the supposed ghost and Annie Palmer who is in reality a fictional character.

Apparently, Annie Palmer is in fact the title character in a famous Jamaican novel, The White Witch of Rose Hall, published in 1929 by Herbert G. de Lisser. Annie Palmer never existed, thus they presumably could not have found any evidence of her ghost. Rose Hall, “the most haunted house in the Western Hemisphere” and indeed one of “the world’s most haunted places” is in reality merely myth passed off by careless writers as fact.

What is does call into question though is how thorough television shows really research their cases before representing them as ‘true haunting’ to the viewing public.

Reading the blog made me recall a time when I visited The Black Swan hotel in Devizes in Wiltshire which is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in England. During a tea break at our time in the building the then landlady (who was terrified to be there and wouldn't stay anywhere on her own) admitted that the back story to the supposed haunting had been made up by a local historian (who at the time did local ghost walks) and some local guy who claimed to be a medum (who also led ghost events in the building for a price a few years ago.)

What interested me the most about the admission was that the television show 'Britains Most Haunted' had visited The Black Swan for one of their episodes and had ran with the supposed back story that was admitted to us to be fake.

"But surely..." I pointed out, "Most Haunted have Richard Felix, the historian with them, wouldn't he have known the story was sham?"

The landlady had laughed. "Richard Felix didn't do any research, he simply went with the information we gave him and held a big book in front on camera to make it look as though he was studying from it."

Surely both of these stories prove that you really cannot trust what you see on television - even if it seems convincing.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

I spoke too soon

I honestly thought I had battled my social anxiety disorder/panic disorder/agrophobia but it seems not. It is 1am in the morning and I'll be truthful, I'm sitting in bed unable to sleep thinking up the best way to quit the job I started two days ago because I can't cope with it.

I went from working part time in a supermarket to working full time as a supervisor in an outdoor lesuire store and I can't face going back. I need to go to the doctors I think because I refused counselling the last time around because I genuinely felt the tablets they put me on had helped me, but I'm back in square one again and I feel ust as bad as I did last year when this all kicked off.

The rational part of my brain is saying that I'm overreacting, but with SAD it's never that simple. Unless you've suffered with this problem it's impossible to understand how this feels. I want to run away and hide from everyone, forever.

Monday, 22 February 2010

You bloody well are haunted!

Today I started work in a store in Trowbridge that for a long time has been at the centre of one of the most reputable hauntings in Wiltshire. The Shires shopping centre is said to be one of the most actively haunted locations in West Wiltshire and the store in question was reputed to be the most haunted because of a poltergeist like entity named George.

The store sells camping gear and it is said that staff would often enter the store to find all the zips on the coats undone despite them having been zipped up before closing, the stock room would be messy with stock flung on the floor and on one occasion they entered the store to find a tent fully built in the middle of the store where no tent had been before which was pretty cool seeing as though only the store management have keys to the shop and nothing was caught on CCTV going into or out of the store.

This had completely slipped my mind when I applied for and got interiewed for the job until it came up in coversation today and I was curious to see if the place is as active as it is reputed to be.
The answer, in a nutshell is that no it isn't. The staff have heard of the ghost and yet despite most of them working there for a year or more, none of them have experienced it. Amazing what word of mouth can do, isn't it?

Many people involved in paranormal research in Wiltshire will happily tell you of the events that happened in that store and yet there is no actual material proof that they did. It seems that it's just an elaborate story that got out of hand (as many do) or it could be that something odd did happen and the events got exagerated beyond recognition into the legend that they are today.

I often think that many famous hauntings that I know of locally are probably the same, which is a shame really, though it's a great example of how people will readily accept something as true without questioning it if it fits into their belief system or their way of thinking. Something that I was guilty of until a few years ago. Sad really...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A brighter Bradford-On-Avon

For a while I have been really bugged by the amount of misinformation spread around in my town of Bradford-On-Avon that relates to alternative medicine and therapies. For someone who is skeptical of such things it seemed like an uphill struggle everytime I tried to challenge any claims made locally that I felt were dangerous or very misleading.

This led me to launch a website called: A brighter Bradford-On-Avon

When I have enough money I am going to buy the domain for the site and over time I hope to add more and more content. my intention is to create a website that is a source of rational information whilst acting as a counter to all the nonsens claims made locally.

I am planning on launching the site via local media and I hope to be able to buy advertising in local magazines who are prone to printing articles that are full of nonsense information regarding general health care & medicine.

In my recent complaint to 'A local life magazine' for publishing an article that promoted the use of homeopathy in place of flu vaccinations I asked the editor if I would be able to write an article pointing out the benefits of flu vaccinations and conventional medicine. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was not possible - I quote:

I am sorry that you were not happy with the article in issue 2, however I would like to explain that as a free magazine that we build relationships with local businesses and advertorial is paid for as you can see the article is accompanied by an advert. In the article it does not state that this is a cure - I would be happy for a doctor to write an article, however people are intelligent and able to draw their own conclusions. I personally have no firm view from wither side other than whatever works for the individual is positive, it's great that you take the time to comment but the article is not one that requires a counter comment , my aim for  the magazine is to promote local business, community events and causes that affect the local area. 
 So, as you can see, as founder of 'A brighter Bradford-On-Avon' I will be eligible for advertising. I haven't done this just out of spite though - that's just a plus side to it. I made the website to spread information about alternative medicine because as a town where even the local doctor surgery promotes alt med, it's about time someone took a rational stance on these topics.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The man from the government, he say no.

On January 31st I wrote to my MP, Dr Andrew Murrison, asking him to sign EDM 423 in support of libel reform which is a topic I have followed very closely over the last few months. I sent him this:
Dear Dr Andrew Murrison MP,

I am writing as one of your constituents who is deeply concerned about the effect our libel laws have on medicine, science, journalism and literature. I believe English libel law cripples free expression both in the UK and abroad.

Firstly, I would urge you to sign cross-party EDM 423 Libel Law Reform to send a clear message from Parliament that you are committed to reforming these unjust laws.

Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.

The law is so biased towards claimants and so hostile to writers that London has become known as the libel capital of the world. The rich and powerful bring cases to London on the flimsiest grounds (libel tourism), because they know that 90% of cases are won by claimants. Libel laws intended to protect individual  reputation are being exploited to suppress fair comment and criticism.

The cost of a libel trial is often in excess of £1 million and 140 times more expensive than libel cases in mainland Europe; publishers (and individual journalists, authors, academics, performers and blog-writers) cannot risk such extortionate costs, which means that they are forced to back down, withdraw and apologise for material they believe is true, fair and important to the public.

The English PEN and Index on Censorship report has shown that there is an urgent need to amend the law to provide a stronger, wider and more accessible public interest defence. Sense About Science has shown that the threat of libel action leads to self-censorship in scientific and medical writing.

I would urge you to back the campaign by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science for a Libel Reform Bill.

Yours,
Hayley Stevens
He emailed me back soon after saying he would reply to me via post and just the other day I recieved his response in the post. I was disappointed to read that he would not be signing the EDM.

Click this picture for a full & readable size image.
 
I'm not entirely sure what sort of 'middle way' he refers to and I can't help but feel this is a bit of a cop out? 
Needless to say he hasn't necessarily lost my vote over this - he didn't have my vote in the first place.

*update* I have since had it pointed out to me that the response I recieved is a template response that many people have had sent to them. I don't feel this is acceptable. I may have sent my MP a template letter - but I'm a civilian who doesn't have the necessary knowledge about libel law, or the libel reform campaign to write a worthwhile letter outlining my concerns. This man is an MP who is paid to represent people, he should be able to write a letter from scratch in reply so I emailed him saying:
Hello,

I recently recieved your letter in the post and would like to thank you for taking the time to reply to me. However, I couldn't help but notice that your response was exactly the same as the responses a number of my friends recieved from their MP's from various parts of the UK. Why is it that you have replied to me with a template letter?

Thank you.

- Hayley Stevens
Have you written to your MP with regards to libel reform? Have you signed the petition? If not, you should pop over to here and help make a difference. Free speech is not for sale. I also do not think it should be up for debate either, but then that's just me. Ho hum.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Rhubarb sometimes has a bitter taste...

Following on from my last blog about the incorrect reporting in the Daily Telegraph that eating cooked rhubarb could help fight cancer I have contacted the Daily Telegraph editorial asking why they haven't ammended or revised the original article in light of the fact that they basically got it wrong on such a bad level.

I'm not expecting a response, but I feel it's important that people are held responsible for the things they promote and their ignorance as the real facts emerge. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

responsible journalism? What's that then?

Whenever I write a blog or an article I always try to remain as factual as I can because I'm aware of the damage and problems that misinformation and bad reporting can have. So when I see really bad reporting by professional journalists who get paid to write what they do it really annoys me because it isn't exactly difficult to find things out about what it is you are reporting.
Is it lazy reporting, or jumping to conclusions? or dressing things up a bit for effect? I'm not sure, but it not doing your homework first can have a terrible effect - especially if what you are reporting is misleading about a very important subject.

This is something that is going to be discussed in great detail on Episode 37 of Righteous Indignation which is out on Monday 22nd. You should definetely listen in because it was one of the best discussions I've had in a long time.

On February 12th the daily telegraph incorrectly reported that Rhubarb could help treat cancer under the headline 'Rhubarb crumble – the new cancer-busting super-food.’
They claimed, and I quote:
“Researchers have found that the traditional favourite, like many red vegetables, contains cancer killing chemicals. And baking the plant for 20 minutes – like in a crumble or pie – dramatically increases their concentration.”
Although researchers at Sheffield Hallum university did indeed find that baking British garden rhubarb for 20 minutes in certain conditions before eating led to a significant increase in the levels of polyphenols, a chemical that has been shown in some tests to destroy or prevent the growth of cancerous cells, they certainly did not reach the conclusion that eating it could cure cancer.

Cancer Research UK released a statement in which Ed Yong, Cancer Research UK's head of health information, said: "Certain methods of cooking rhubarb may increase levels of polyphenols in lab tests, but it's a big leap to say that this will have a noticeable impact on the risk of cancer in real people. Rather than relying on a single food, our advice is to enjoy rhubarb as part of a varied diet high in fibre, fruit and vegetables and low in red and processed meat, saturated fat and salt."

The NHS also released an article on their website, saying:

“The Daily Telegraph today said that rhubarb crumble is the “new cancer-busting super food”. This news story was based on research to determine how cooking rhubarb would affect the amount of antioxidant chemicals it contains. Some scientists believe that antioxidants offer protection from diseases such as cancer, although it should be noted that this research did not directly look at any aspect of human health.

It will take further research to assess how cooking affects the breakdown of these antioxidant chemicals and how this may affect any health benefits from the food.
This research was inaccurately reported on by The Daily Telegraph. The published research did not investigate the effect of rhubarb extracts (or polyphenols) on cancer cells or human health in general. The study only looked at how the concentrations of these chemicals in rhubarb were affected by different cooking methods.”
Unfortunately, although these statements were issued in response to what can only be described as terrible reporting on the part of the Daily Telegraph, the story has spread around the web and a simple google search for the words cancer & rhubarb drums up many results that promote the idea that eating rhubarb will cure cancer. This is the damage that bad reporting can have because now this misinformation has spread.

People who suffer from cancer may cling to the idea that rhubarb will cure their cancer because the article released by the Daily Telegraph has given them false hope at a time when they are desperate for anything that will help them.

Why is it that journalists are allowed to report such incorrect information without being held accountable for it? It makes me so angry that people willingly promote ideas that have no fact to them, or twist the facts to make a headline - is it really that hard to get your facts straight?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Bitch, please.

I'm feeling under the weather (again) and so every little annoying thing has really been bugging me today and I'm going to get it off of my chest because this is my blog and I can.

I am a nice person, or at least I try to be. Most people who know me describe me as laid back, calm and approachable. I don't let things wind me up because I've come to the conclusion that letting things get you into a stress and a bad mood isn't worth it in the long run. However, today was different.

Today, I asked one of my colleagues how to do something on the till and she quickly showed me and I apologised for interrupting her and said 'I get confused as we did it differently where I used to work.' She thought she would be clever and mean and said 'Yeah, well this is Iceland.' Well. Wow. I mean, I only went through the interview process, the induction week, the training and the countless weeks of working there like her and yet boy am I glad she let me know it was Iceland because I'd been thinking I worked in Wilkinsons.

This woman is so mean to everyone, she belittles other people in front of customers as though she gets off on it. I swear, today, all her snipey little comments put me in a foul mood. I'm normally a calm person who lets any little thing like a colleague who is a bitch go over my head but today I was planning on how best to throw my chair at her head.

What do people really achieve from being complete bitches? I'm only ever a bitch when there is a reason - for example, if you've screwed me over you'll meet that side of me. What's the point of being a bitch for no reason?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

I'm not mad! Just... slightly loopy!

Last year I completed the Bath race for life with a group of workmates from Sainsbury's. We walked around the course because you have the option of walking, jogging or running. It was the middle of summer and on that particular day it was supposed to rain but the rain had held off and instead it was scorching sunshine the whole way around the course - the rain set in just as the last of us crossed the finishing line and I so was glad to see it.

It hadn't been a challenging walk, but i had felt kind of lazy because I saw so many people running and jogging around the course and I didn't have any excuse not to do that. I'm a pretty healthy 22 year old. I'm not obese and yet I can't run very far without pretty much starting to die. It's shameful.

I ran for my aunt Sandra who, although she didn't die of breast cancer, died of secondary cancer of the lung and brain. It had been the second time she got cancer - the first time she'd had part of one of her lungs removed as a result and the second time around it beat her. I also ran last year for my friend and ex-collague Carol who was diagnosed with breast cancer literally a few weeks before we were due to do the race for life.

I can remember being at work when everyone found out and those of us (below) who were doing the race for life suddenly found we had even more reason to be doing what we were. Thankfully Carol is still with us to this day and the good news is she is beating her cancer! The strength that I saw both Sandra and Carol show in the face of such a gloomy outlook made me realise that if they can be as strong as they are when they are seriously ill then I have no excuse not to haul my lazy arse around that 5km course.

 
I'm third from the right, number 6081. Yes. I was blonde. 
So this year when one of my work colleagues at the very cool Iceland (see what I did there?) pointed out that they had signed up for the Race for Life in June of this year I decided that I too was going to do the race for life and this year I would jog around the course.

I know. I'm going to kill myself. However, I have put a plan together. I have been granted permission by my brother to use his treadmill and so every other day I am going to practice on it until I can get up to the stage at which I can happily jog for 4km or so. The race for life circuit is 5km so if I can make it 3km - 4km around the track jogging I will be more than happy with myself.

As it currently stands I have done one session on the treadmill for ten minutes. I did 2 minutes of fast paced walking and 1 minute of running and then 2 of running and 1 of walking and so on and I nearly died. Honestly, I didn't realise I was so out of shape.

Therefore I will need motivation and the best motivation is to have people believing that I can make it around that track jogging. So, if you're a kind hearted soul perhaps you could spare a few pennies by sponsoring me?

I honestly do not expect a lot, even £1 would make a difference. If I can reach my target for this year and can jog around the race for life track, then next year I am going to do the moon/sun walk in Bristol. Please help me beat my target! 

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Lurve

It's 50 minutes into Valentines day and I just want to remind people to go to my post on Ornithomancy for valentines day and to look at a bird and to then report back to md and let me know if you find your true love. Hah.

Valentines day is one of those 'marmite days' because you either love it or you hate it. Single people like me either despise the day because it reminds them of what they don't have, or they get depressed because it reminds them of what they don't have - or both. In worst case scenarios.

I can remember when I worked for a certain large, successful supermarket chain in the department that oversaw all the pricing and advertising for the store I worked in. Valentines day would start in January and finish on the 15th of February and it wouldn't be until the 12th that things really started to kick off with the sales. I wonder if it is down to pressure and expectation that people buy gifts and cards in their masses. If it was purely because they loved somebody, wouldn't buying them gifts and treats be a normal thing rather than an annual occurence? Or am I being naive again?

Happy valentines day, whether you choose to celebrate it or not. I'm willing to travel to pick up the chocolates you all bought me. Just let me know where to! ;)

Go preach to your congregation, not us.

I don't get it. I just don't understand why the leaders of different religions think that I would be interested in what they have to say.

As I type this I'm wearing a T-shirt with the words 'There's probably no god so stop worrying and enjoy your life' across the front of it. This is recognisable as the slogan from the Atheist bus campaign. This is because I'm atheist and therefor don't give a flying f**k about religion in my life. Well, I say that, I do care about it's effect on other people (which can sometimes be negative) and I do care when it tries to have an influence in my life where it has no right to even consider treading.

I just read a story on the BBC website about the Archbishop Vincent Nichols and how he will use a future homily to criticise the NHS and the campaign for assisted death.
He will say calls for assisted suicide and euthanasia reflect a society that does not know how to deal with death. The archbishop's comments will be delivered at a special service of healing at Westminster Cathedral.
What I don't understand is why the hell it is thought that I personally care about what he has to say. I also don't believe this guy has any right to comment to the general public about people who call for assisted suicide and euthanasia from his so called point of authority in society. He can preach to his congregation all he likes - that's what he chooses to do, but to openly and publically criticise people who campaign for assisted sucide is none of his business as a religious leader.

Perhaps society doesn't know how to deal with death, it is pretty much one of the topics we all face at some stage in our life that has no answers. However, I'd like to point out that Nichols also doesn't know how to deal with death himself. He might think he has the answers from the religious position he holds and because made up stories tell him what to believe about death and what happens to us but that's just his opinion, and a weak one at that. To look down on other peoples call for assisted suicide and say it's because they don't know how to handle death is quite insulting because those people are either living a life full of pain and restriction, have been diagnosed with a condition that means that in the future they might be living such a life or know and love people who are in that position.

They have their reasons for asking for assisted suicide to be made legal just as the Archbishop has his reasons for believing it is wrong. However, his argument is a weak one because it's essentially based on fairytales whereas people called for Euthanasia to be made legal are living in reality. A very scary reality.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Darwin day

I am godless and I believe in evolution but this does not mean that I have no sense of greatfulness or wonder. Every night I lay in bed and look up through the sky light windows in my ceiling and I look at the stars and I know that I am linked to them - not through an invisible magician who made the entire universe appear from nothing - but because the stars and I all came about through a series of random events. The unpredictable nature of the universe, and indeed, the planet we live on is what makes it so beautiful in my eyes.

Today is Darwin day, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. I think it's incredibly important to recognise the world as it is rather than taking the volatile beauty around us and turning it into the product of a fairy tale creature that is worshipped. Evolution rocks, quite frankly, it's fascinating because it makes sense. Happy Darwin Day my homo sapien friends.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A look at ornithomancy for valentines day

I'm not really fussed about valentines day and the only time I ever recieved a card was from a boyfriend who made it out of scrap paper in front of me because he'd forgotten and only remembered when I gave him his card.

I read an article in the Daily mail today that made me chuckle. It's called: Who's your lovebird? Our feathered friends are Valentine's Day fortune tellers

Ornithomancy* is the Ancient Greek practice of reading omens from the actions of birds and according to the Daily Mail is the best way to work out who 'is destined to set your heart aflutter' on February 14th.
Apparently, the first bird that a girl sees on valentines day indicated what sort of man her suitor will be, sounds like a theory doesn't it? Or not.
The mail say "Glimpse a goldfinch, for instance, and you're destined to tie the knot with a wealthy chap, while clapping eyes on a canary means you will wed a doctor. Those who like a man in uniform should hope to spot a robin as this may indicate a life of future happiness with a naval officer. 
They use a blatant appeal to antiquity and tradition in their article by stating:
It might all sound like a flight of fancy, but the practice of reading omens from birds - or ornithomancy, as it is called - dates back to ancient times and was practised by the Greeks and Romans. After consulting with experts on folklore, tourist chiefs in Worcestershire compiled the list of 26 birds and what they signify based - they claim - on various sources, including Celtic, European medieval and native American Indian traditions. They hope it will encourage singletons to take up the less than romantic sounding hobby of birdwatching as an antidote to loneliness.
Well, if the Romans and Greeks did it, it MUST work, right? The reason it might sound like a flight of fancy is that it most definetely is a flight of fancy.

The Mail don't say it has to be a living bird, they just say it has to be the first bird you see on Valentines day.
I will point out now that if this experiment doesn't work, please don't sue me for ruining your love life - it's the daily mails fault. Not mine**.

So here goes. Anyone wanting to take part in this mini experiment must:

a) be female (for some reason it doesn't work for men? )
b) Simply come to my blog on Valentines day
c) choose the bird in the list below
d) click on the relevant link
e) look at the bird for, say, ten seconds
f) Let me know if it works.***

- If you want a wealthy 'chap' you need to look at a goldfinch

- If you want to 'wed a doctor' you need to look at a canary

- If you like a man in uniform you need to look at a robin
(this may indicate a life of happiness with a naval officer!) 

- If you want a man who cares about the environment you need to look at a turkey

- If you want a man who will return home you need to look at a pigeon

- If you want a spiritual, charitable guy you need to look at a blackbird

- If you want a quick thinking business man you need to look at a magpie

- If you want to marry a farmer you need to look at a sparrow

- If you want a partner for life you need to look at a swan

- If you want to marry a politician look at a bird of prey 

- Be warned! Looking at a peacock means he'll be vain,

- looking at a woodpecker means no marriage will take place.


- If you want a happy marriage look at a dove.

- If you want someone who makes people smile look at a bluebird.

- I you want a homely, stable relationship look at a duck

- He’ll travel a lot for work if you look at a gull

- He’ll be driven by material possession if you look at a wren

- He’ll be a very sociable person if you look at a finch

- If you want to meet a scientist/mathematician look at a nuthatch

- If you want to meet a man who is academic look at an owl

- If you want him to be hard working and tenacious look at a pheasant

- If you want to meet a man who has done well or has inheritance look at a kingfisher

- If you want to meet a man who works in communications look at a goose

- If you don’t want a relationship look at a crow

*If you are religious, the bible actually bans this because evilvoodoodevilworshipbirdsareevil
** I don't believe in this bullshit, and I don't think you should either, but this is fun.
*** I know this may mean coming back in 20 years when you finally meet Mr Right, but hey, dedication ladies! It's all I ask for!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The horror

I promised myself I wouldn't write this blog post, but I've broken the promise because I'm a little bit sick of the criticism I've been recieving from my friends, family, co-workers and even people I've never met simply because I became a vegetarian. It's my choice what I eat, and I've never tried to put down other people for their decision to eat meat as though I hold some sort of moral high ground because that's not how I see it.

Everyone is entitled to do what they like (within reason of course...) and I don't really see how me choosing to not be part of the demand for meat is anybody elses business. Please submit your answers in the comments if I'm wrong because I'm genuinely interested. However, those people who have criticised me because of my free choice are now going to be criticised by me for their free choice. Maybe they will read this, maybe not - if you are reading it and you've taken the piss out of me for becoming a vegetarian then I hope this blog will help you to understand where I am coming from and why it is I made my decision to never eat meat again.

The way I see it is that if you're willing to eat a chicken from a supermarket shelf then you should be willing to eat any animal meat. I recently saw one friend complaining on facebook how her fiance was eating reindeer and how it was gross, yet she eats meat every single day. What's the difference? An animal is an animal no matter what shape it comes in, in my opinion.

I've been told systematically by people who don't have any business to tell me anything about myself that I'm over reacting by becoming a vegetarian. That I'm being dramatic and that if we didn't eat animals they'd have no purpose on this planet.

Let me just pause here and shake my head in dismay.

Okay, I've shaken my head, here's where I climb on my soapbox. How DARE anybody presume that humans are any more important than any other animal on this planet? How DARE anybody presume that animals have one purpose and that is to be eaten by us? We are animals too. Animals would be much happier to live in the wild where they can exist as equal beings. Sure, they might become extinct because they're not forced to breed - but that's more natural than being born simply to feed something else. That's not a life at all, it's disgusting!

I feel disgusted that I ever personally thought it was okay to eat meat. My brother has taunted me over the last couple of weeks by showing off the meat on his plate as though it will make me want to eat meat again - like someone who is giving up smoking being tempted to smoke again. It won't work though, why would I want to eat meat now that I know exactly what goes into providing it?

The thought of a bacon sandwich now actually makes me heave. Before, it was one of my favourite snacks, a bit like pepperoni pizza - it was my poison. However, whenever I look at a pepperoni pizza now I look at the round pieces of meat and I wonder what the animal it came from looked like. Was it male? female? How old were they?
 
This is me and my dog Lucky. If anybody ever hurt or mistreated him, I'd have to plan their downfall. In fact, I care so much for this dog I actually once threw myself in front of a fast moving cyclist to ensure he didn't get hit by the bike. I love animals, you see and I stopped eating meat because I respect them. Why is it okay for me to never want harm to befall the dog with the snow in his beard in the picture above, when I'm happy to sit down and eat animals that have been badly treated and never been allowed a proper life? What a hypocrite I was...

Here's an example of why I feel the way I feel. I saw this video from PETA a while ago and whilst some people will groan and say 'oh, PETA' whilst rolling their eyes, it isn't PETA that I am writing about here, it's the video. The video that shows what happens to male chicks who can't provide eggs to feed the demand of eggs. It's my opinion that if you eat eggs or chicken you should be able to watch this video and feel completely happy with what it shows. I don't. That's why I made the choice I did. If you can't understand that then tough shit. I don't expect anybody to respect me or to "get me" or anything.

Please don't think I am lecturing people here as I respect your free choice to eat what you want, this blog was written for all of those people who thought they had the right to tell me how stupid I was.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

I've gone two weeks without eating corpses!

It's been two weeks since I decided to stop eating meat. I didn't know if I'd be able to make it for one week, let alone two and yet here I am! Many people have asked why I decided to become a vegetarian; was it for ethical reasons? health? wealth? enviromental reasons?

The reason is quite a simple one, see, I've worked in retail for seven years and a month or so ago I became aware of just how much meat was in the store I work in. There are just six aisles in the supermarket I work for and yet as I stood in the store one day I realised there were hundreds of dead animals around me in different forms. It made me feel sick. Especially as I see the amount of products that are thrown away because they go out of date or get damaged.
I realised what a waste it was, a waste of life and such needless cruelty and violence that went into providing the meat that could end up just being thrown away. After that I found it difficult to eat the meat on my plate and suddenly those bacon sandwiches weren't so appealing. I started to look at the food that I consumed on a regular basis and I was shocked to find that things such as my favourite chocolate contained Rennet which is made by extracting enzymes from the stomachs of young calves. Yikes.

I began looking into how giving up meat would effect me and the world around me. I read lots of literature about how becoming a vegetarian can have benefits on the environment and that seemed like a rather good reason alone, let alone the ethical reasons that had promoted me to make the decision in the first place.

I've had many people tell me that I'm a hypocrite for becoming a vegetarian, or that it wont make a difference. In fact, an old school friend of mine Andrew sent me 'defencive omnivore bingo' when I first announced I was becoming vegetarian and this is the progress so far (click for full size!):


I thought, as a good way to mark the two week stage I would make a list of the best bits about becoming a vegetarian, as a way to re-inspire myself should my brother taunt me with chocolate I can't have - or bacon sandwiches. So here goes.

10 good things about starting out as a vegetarian

1 - Over the last two weeks as I've given up meat and many animal by-products I've read about just how much of a difference I am actually making, even though it seems that one person wont make much of a difference.

2 - I have discovered some amazing food that I've never tried before. An example would be a leek and mushroom crumble that I tried which was just lush!

3 - There are hardly any calories in vegetables!

4 - Eating as a vegetarian has made me more aware of the impact I have on the environment around me.

5 - I've been able to surprise my family by offering them pieces of the food I have which they've liked.

6 - My family, as a whole, has started to eat a much healthier diet (even though they still eat meat.)

7 - I've chosen to be moral about what I eat because I care, not because the bible told me to, and it makes me feel like a good person. The god in the bible doesn't care much about suffering. I do.

8 - I haven't tried to force anyone I know to give up meat, but by becoming vegetarian I've made them consider it.

9 - Becoming vegetarian has brought me closer to some of my friends and family who are also vegetarian and that can only be a good thing.

10 - I don't feel guilty anymore, because I know a brussel sprout or a carrot doesn't have a nervous system and doesn't go through suffering to end up on my plate.

I also recently discovered this video from the Richard Dawkins.net youtube account in which Richard Dawkins talks to Peter Singer. It really helped me to think about the stance I have taken on what I do and do not eat. It's a long video but there are some absolutely amazing points make in it.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The rather confused skeptic

I'm not thinking straight & it is due to a course of strong antibiotics fighting a bad toothache that has kept me mostly awake for over a week so do forgive me if I don't make sense with this post. It's something that has been bugging me for a few days and I would really appreciate any feedback and comments from people who read this because I genuinely am confused.

When I became more involved in the skeptical community the one thing I realised that I had been doing wrong for so long was expecting people to understand my skeptical POV without even explaining the facts to them. I realised by approaching people about what I considered to be wrong information or quackery and challenging it in the wrong manner wouldn't actually have any positive outcome and would only result in creating two sides of an argument that neither side would back down from because each side believed it was right.

This isn't a proactive way of helping to introduce people to rational thinking; I came to understand that you can't preach to people, you have to just present the information so that it's available for people who want to find out about it.

See, to me that seems a bit laid back but I can understand how it's a more proactive way of dealing with misinformed beliefs and claims. I was a believer in ghost related woo not three years ago and whenever a skeptic would come on television and outright tell me what I believed in was wrong the barriers went up. Simple as that.

However, when a skeptical person introduced me to the idea that I was wrong and encouraged me to go and seek the information to show they were right I did it and realised that they were indeed right.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that challenges have to be made where severe misinformation is passed onto members of the public. I am not against that at all because handled correctly such direct challenges can have great effect on the public awareness and understanding of the topic in question.

My concerns have been raised though as I watch the progress of the 10:23 campaign (which I believe is a fantastic campaign) and come to see numerous people who take on a 'them vs. us' stance towards homeopaths and people who use homeopathy. It doesn't achieve anything in my opinion, in fact it undoes any progress being made because suddenly those barriers will go up and it becomes a two sided battle that cannot be won. I don't like that idea.

It's difficult to not get involved deeply with a topic you feel passionately about, I guess it's just having the ability to ask yourself if what you're saying or writing is going to have a positive long-term effect or whether it's just a cheap shot that's going to do nothing but achieve a feeling of smugness for a moment or two? That's not what I understood skepticism to be about, perhaps I'm wrong...

Thursday, 4 February 2010

You're telling porkies

According to Cristina Fernandez, the president of Argentina; pork is a more effective sexual stimulant than Viagra. She claims, in a bid backed by the country's pork industry leaders, that after tucking into some barbecued chops she and her husband had just spent a fulfilling weekend of marital bliss. 

The reason? Well, Cristina believes that it's the pork that is the cause. She explained to the press conference she likes a bit of sausage, saying:
"Eating pork improves your sex life. I'd say it's a lot nicer to eat a bit of grilled pork than take Viagra, and let me tell you, I am a big fan of pork meat, and I am not just saying that to look good here."
Easy tiger...

One person supporting Cristina's revelation was head of the association of pork producers, Juan Luis Uccelli, who told the press that Denmark and Japan have a much more "harmonious" sexual life than Argentinians because they eat a lot of pig meat.
"In Osaka, Japan, there is a village in which the people who reached 105 years old and ate a lot of pork had a lot of sexual activity,"
Yet many were (unbelievably) skeptical of these claims, a currently unnamed specialist in sexual dysfunction told the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion that there was no study showing that pork meat significantly improves sexual activity.

I also couldn't personally find any proof that there was a Japanese village in which people aged to 105, ate pork and had a lot of sex. I can't help but feel this is a slight appeal to antiquity or tradition in the hope that people will believe it to be true and start eating more pork (thus creating profit.)

Argentina is well known for it's consumption of beef and so for the president to go to the press with a statement that potentially promotes pork is good news for pork producers in Argentina. It seems as though the pitch of pork against viagra; a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction, might do their trade the world of good.

I did some research into whether there really was a link between pork and sexual activity but I couldn't find anything that suggested that pork - like viagra, can be eaten to treat erectile dysfunction.
There is a difference between treating a sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction - as Viaga does, and spicing up your sex life with "stimulating pork" as Cristina promotes.

Being sexually stimulated by pork is possible if you have a pork fetish, however it wont help if you have erectile dysfunction. Viagra only helps a man to get an erection if he is already sexually stimulated.

When things are working properly, ejaculation is a three-step process:
1.The man becomes sexually aroused.
2.The penis responds by becoming erect.
3.Stimulation of the penis causes ejaculation.

However for people with erectile dyfunction step two doesn't happen, making step three difficult or impossible. Although the man is stimulated, the penis doesn't become erect.

For more details about how Cristina's pork theory just wouldn't work even if it is true that pork is sexually stimulating, you should click the link above.

I probably ought to add here that as a vegetarian I don't support the consumption of meat as a sexual stimulant and that it is widely believed that a vegetarian diet can actually help with impotence.

If you seriously need help in the bedroom go and speak to your family doctor. Not the butcher.

formspring.me

Who'd win in a fight between Marsh and Trystam?

Lets be fair. If Marsh and Trystan got into a fight it wouldn't be physical, it would be a geeky skeptical debate and neither of them would shut up. That's why we try to keep them distracted as much as possible during the recording of RI otherwise we could end up being there for days and days. In fact, one episode did take three days to record because Marsh went off on a rant about Marshmallows and Trystan dared to disagree with him when he said Marshmallows were nice.

Ask me anything

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Shiney Happy People

So today is my first day back at work in over a week. It sort of sucks at the moment because I took my current job to fit around the college course I was on (that I dropped out of) and now I'm stuck in a part time job that only gives me eight hours of work a week. This gives me just enough money to pay my rent and get the train to and from work. However, rather than letting this get me down I keep my chin up and think of the opportunities that are out there waiting to be taken.

Due to my lack of funding I was really down because I've been desperate to take some creative writing courses to help me get into my writing as I'm a bit all over the place with it as it currently stands. However, because of my lack of earnings I couldn't even begin to think about enrolling on anything. Yet, yesterday I discovered that there are people out there who will help me fund my studies - all I have to do is fill in my application in time and if they accept me I will able to start my course in September! This has made my week a little bit brighter. Sometimes people ask me how I can be so optimistic about things and I have a simple reply.

I've been through hell and almost died, I'm just happy to be alive. Anything else is an added bonus.

Victory for common sense

As visitors to my blog will recall I recently made a big fuss over an article in a local free magazine called 'A local life' in which a local homeopath was allowed to freely promote the idea that flu vaccinations didn't work, but his homeopathic remedies would be a substitute for warding off the flu, or helping to treat it.

You can read the two articles I wrote about that here and here.

I made various complaints and sent various emails to the people behind the article and magazine but it seemed my point wasn't getting through as they simply couldn't understand what it was I was complaining about. Myself and another skeptic blogger - skeptic letters - who kindly helped me with my complaints wrote to several people including the ASA and PCC but all seemed to be unable to help due to the nature of the publication and article. It was frustrating to say the least but I started to come around to the idea that perhaps there was nothing I could do. I'd written my blog, I'd spread the word and that was all I could do, but at least I'd tried.

Roll on a couple of weeks and as I walked into our living room this morning my mum pointed to the computer desk in the corner upon which was sat the latest edition of 'A local life.' My eyes widened and she smiled and said "He's in there again, page 17."

My mum's good like that. I flicked through and found the page and was dismayed to see an article about how homeopathy can 'combat the effects of stress and overcome anxiety and depression.'

Now this in itself is an impressive boast because as somebody who has been diagnosed with social anxiety and panic disorder I know that even my doctor (who gives me medication with active ingredients in) can't combat it completely.

I was however, rather pleased that as I read through the article I realised that my moaning may have payed off because this time Andrew had written statistics and had pointed out how what he was writing was 'his opinion.'

The real icing on the cake however came in the form of a box underneath the article that read, in bold letters:

"You should always seek medical advice for any condition from your family doctor."

You have no idea how happy this has made me. It's only a small step, but it's a step in the right direction and it has proven to me that sometimes standing up and speaking out about something you think is wrong will make a difference. Even if you don't feel like it will at the time.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Spelling out the facts - Ouija toys for girls and boys?

Recently a group was formed on social networking site Facebook called 'Parents against Ouija boards geared for small children at Toys-R-Us'

A friend of mine brought my attention to it when she mentioned it in one of her status' and I curious to find out if Toys-R-Us really do sell ouija boards or not, and it turns out they do! At least... in the US.

 
The description for the ouija board I found read:
Ouija Board has always been mysterious. It has always been mystifying. And now the OUIJA Board is glow in the dark! With 72 fun questions included, you'll never run out of things to ask. Who will call/text me next? Gather your friends around, draw a card, place your fingers on the planchette and ask your question. Concentrate very hard and watch as the answer is revealed in the message window. Make up your own questions, and let the OUIJA Board satisfy your curiosity in virtually endless ways. OUIJA Board will answer. It's just a game - or is it? Includes OUIJA Board, message indicator (planchette), card deck with 72 questions, carrying case with storage pockets and instructions.
This has caused controversy, with the members of the facebook group claiming that:
Ouija Boards should NEVER be for children!! It is a "game" for adults. It should not be used to promote the vanity driven age by letting young impressional[sic] girls think that it has the answers and allowing them to build their self confidence from a board game that , although not scientifically proven, can be dangerous and unstable.
If you agree then lets use our "buying power" and stand up to these people who are making toys for our children that are less then appropriate! As consummers[sic] we have the right to buy or not to buy but does that mean that everything is ok to sell?? That everything is ok to placed in pink and shown to our children as a fun and exciting toy?
I think its time those big market toy thinkers ask themselves "Would I let MY child play with that? Would I be comfortable with my child seeing that on the shelf and wanting it? Would I allow my child to play with it at a friends house?" The world is getting pretty bad when its run out of decent toys for little girls and boys.
I suppose the first thing I ought to do before I get stuck into this is to look at what exactly a ouija board is.

I own a ouija board, I bought it as a laugh and I'm glad I did because every time I show it to somebody they either recoil in fear or laugh along with me. When you investigate claims of paranormal occurrences one thing that you cannot shy away from is the sheer number of people who also do the same sort of research from a belief orientated POV.
Evil boardgame

For a year or two when I first started out with my research the woo type of investigators convinced me the ouija board was dangerous and that toying with one would end up with me having a demon or negative entity in my home because 'opening the door is fine but it's closing it that's difficult' because some people believe that using a spirit/ouija board opens a 'portal' into the afterlife, spirit world or other dimension. This was some scary shit and I wasn't willing to mess around with it because I was naive enough to think that they wouldn't make such a thing up.

I soon found out though that the ouija board isn't dangerous at all, it's a game - or at least that's how it started out. Wikipedia explains is clearer than I could hope to:
The businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard had the idea to patent a planchette sold with a board on which the alphabet was printed. The patentees filed on May 28, 1890 for patent protection and thus had invented the first Ouija board. Issue date on the patent was February 10, 1891. They received U.S. Patent 446,054. Bond was an attorney and was an inventor of other objects in addition to this device. An employee of Kennard, William Fuld took over the talking board production and in 1901, he started production of his own boards under the name "Ouija".[3] The Fuld name would become synonymous with the Ouija board, as Fuld reinvented its history, claiming that he himself had invented it. The strange talk about the boards from Fuld's competitors flooded the market and all these boards enjoyed a heyday from the 1920s through the 1960s. Fuld sued many companies over the "Ouija" name and concept right up until his death in 1927. In 1966, Fuld's estate sold the entire business to Parker Brothers, who continues to hold all trademarks and patents. About ten brands of talking boards are sold today under various names.[3]
They found their inspiration from spiritualists whom they saw conducting a talking board session. People claim that the fact that their inspiration came from a spiritualist communication session must mean the board is dangerous and capable of opening up spiritual portals. This isn't the case at all and that's a leap of logic. Such a conclusion relies on the spiritualists method of communication being right and all research goes against this idea.

It has been proven by various controlled studies that the ideomotor response is the cause for the movement of planchettes, glasses and dowsing rods/crystals during spiritualist communication sessions.
Muscular movement can be independent of conscious desires or emotions. This basically means that people who have a desire for the glass, table, planchette, crystal, dowsing rod to move, could be causing the object the move through involuntary muscular movement. Could this be the reason some spiritualists, mediums and psychics claim that anyone feeling doubtful should leave the circle?
“Honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations”
This is a quote from Ray Hyman who in the year 1999, alongside his fellow American Psychologist as well as English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Chevreul actually conducted numerous tests that demonstrated that what some people believe the be spirits moving tables, glasses and planchettes IS down to the ideomotor effect. Earlier tests also showed that people can be subconsciously influenced when given subtle clues which can lead them to move the object in question (glass, pendulum etc.) without actually realising it, in response to the subtle clues given.
The problem I have with the group on facebook who protest against the ouija board being sold is that it's up to the individual if they buy a ouija board for their child or not. It is just a toy, if you don't want to buy it for your child then that's fine because you are their parents. However, should another person wish to buy their child a ouija board then it's their choice.
The Facebook group comment:
 Allowing them to build their self confidence from a board game that , although not scientifically proven, can be dangerous and unstable.
 I fully agree with this, children shouldn't be unsupervised with something that could potentially have an effect on their self confidence or their development. However, it HAS been scientifically proven that the ouija board is not dangerous or unstable because we KNOW that the ideomotor response as mentioned above has a direct influence with the outcome of the ouija board session.

I personally find it more worrying that parents would stop their children from playing with a board game due to their own prejudice and superstitions. Way to go to crush your child's curiosity and fill their heads with nonsense.

My final thought to come out of all of this was a humorous one because on the game being sold by Toys-R-Us it gives a recommended age of 8-14 years. Who's going to be the person to tell all the grown up ghost hunters who still use ouija boards that they're being immature?

"Now spit!"

I have a dentist appointment today at 3:15pm because I think I have a compacted wisdom tooth and it's hurting. I have an extreme fear of the dentists because when I was nine a dentist accidentally drilled into my inner cheek. Every time I sit in a dentist chair now I revert back to the nine year old me.
This isn't helped much at all by my panic disorder or my social anxiety which, although I have under control now, do tend to surface like ugly hags hanging around my shoulders muttering 'when shall we three meet again?'

It was a big step for me to phone the dentist and book an appointment, it's even more of a big step for me to keep the appointment and as it currently stands I'll be going which is good because I was scared my anxiety might get the better of me today.

However, I've come to the conclusion that we are our own worst enemies because last night as I sat in bed reading my book that scene below from 'Little shop of horrors' popped into my head and now I have a stupid fear that my dentist has been replaced with this guy:

Monday, 1 February 2010

I went to Bristol and all I got was a 10:23 t-shirt!


One minute. That is how late I was for my original train to Bristol Temple Meads - the station I was heading to so that I could participate in the Bristol 10:23 homeopathy overdose. It was one of those 'you have to be kidding?' moments as I watched my train depart on its way without me. Even the guy at the ticket barrier laughed.

It had already been one of those mornings for me. I had to be awake at 7am in order to have enough time to catch the 8:14am train (which I obviously failed to do.) Yet I awoke into one of those zombie-like states that sees time whizzing by whilst nothing happens.

I managed to get the next train to Bristol and at every stop on the way I kept wondering to myself if the other people in my train carriage were going to be taking the overdose. I wondered if they were fans of homeopathy, or how they would react if they knew that I had a bottle of Nux Vomica 30C in my pocket that I was going to down in one go at 10:23am that morning outside of Boots in protest?

I tend to hate train journeys when I'm alone because the boredom sets in really quickly but it wasn't long before I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads. I love that station by the way, it's stupid, but every time I go there I can't resist staring up at the huge ceiling like a child. That wonder was soon replaced with humiliation though as I failed to get through those security barrier things that swallow your tickets four times before realising I was using the ones with a big X on it to signal they weren't open.

I hoped at this point that the people around me weren't going to the event because otherwise I'd be 'that girl from the station.'

Anyway, I was soon on a bus on my way to the city centre (after a slight row with the driver who wouldn't take a £2 coin as payment and made me count out 50p in 5p's and 2p's. Git.) And it wasn't long before we reached my stop. This was when I realised that I didn't quite know who I was looking for.

Don't get me wrong, I knew Richard Stelling would be there as he is the organiser for Bristol Skeptics. The problem was that I couldn't see him anywhere. I stood there like a lemon as the bitter wind froze my fingers off; scanning the area when my eyes landed on two guys stood next to a bench with what looked like a load of t-shirts on it. I knew there would be 10:23 t-shirts available and so I figured it was likely that these were the people I needed to be with and so I made my way over to them. Yet, a small voice in my head kept telling me that they probably belonged to a religion or cult and approaching them was going to be humiliating. What if they were giving away free stress tests? Or creationist versions of the origin of species?

I actually cringed inwardly when I asked 'Hi, are you here for the homeopathy?' If they'd said no, I swear I would have run away crying, so it was a good job they said yes. Their names were Gavin and Oliver, Richard was getting a coffee from a nearby stand which was why I hadn't seen him.

Over the next half an hour or so more and more people began to approach the group, all probably wondering as I had done whether this group of people were there to take an overdose too. I have to say I was impressed at how many people turned up. Fifteen of us in total I do believe which was fantastic.

 
Early arrivals. Me on the right looking cold :(


We all stood there, freezing slightly when Richard climbed onto a bench and started explaining just how we were going to carry out our overdose. By this time we were all wearing our very lovely 10:23 t-shirts and getting a few odd looks from the people around us. Not that we cared though because we had gone there with sugar to make our point, and make our point we would - weird stares or not!

I can vaguely remember being pointed out to everyone as 'Hayley from Righteous Indignation' by Richard, he encouraged people to come and talk to me after the overdose and I remember waving my Dictaphone at them in a very awkward manner whilst inwardly thinking 'what the hell did you do that for you Muppet? If they saw you at the train station and on the bus they're most definitely going to think you’re an idiot now.'

 
My handbag matched the Boots decor. Oh yeah!


Soon we were off to the selected Boots store to try and kill ourselves with sugar. We walked in a long line while talking excitedly amongst ourselves (whilst flashing our t-shirts at passers by who stared at us as though we were dressed as tellytubbies - probably thinking "how quaint" or "idiots" or "ooooh.")

It was noted at some point by Robert Weeks that we were following a trail of blood from someone who had clearly been hurt on Friday night. I pointed out that it was okay, we might stumble upon him/her and we were all equipped with homeopathy to help them with. An awkward silence followed this and I hoped that this didn't happen because that would have been embarrassing really.

 
Yours truly interviewing Oliver. One of many participants.


We arrived outside of Boots and it appeared we had been expected because there was a police presence in the store, the security guards had build some sort of barricade too as though they expected us to charge the store and start eating the homeopathy like ravenous lunatics. Ha. It was too cold to even move, let along charge any store. It did make me feel a bit notorious though.

I vaguely remember somebody standing on a bench and instructing us all to shout 'Homeopathy! There's nothing in it!"

This video is online, you can see in it that I am clearly distracted by the people who all stopped and stared at us. I kept smiling at them to try and convince them we were sane. I don't think it worked, mainly because it was freezing and I wasn't smiling, I was grimacing in a scary manner. Hmm.

Soon 10:23 struck and it was time for us all to down our pills. The only problem was that none of us could get the damn bottles to dispense them properly. One attendee even went INTO Boots to ask for a replacement bottle so that he could overdose and THEY GAVE IT TO HIM!

 
"How... how the bloody hell do you... help! I can't open it!"


At one point a police officer came over and asked us if we were going to be disruptive to which Rob Weeks replied "I have to get home and look after my child. My wife would kill me if I got arrested."

I think that summed up just how much of a threat we were really. People then proceeded to explain the police officer just what we were there for and why, but she seemed a bit confused. I think it probably sunk in for her that they weren't dealing with crazy people - just science geeks.

 
Forget your 'baffled scientist/doctor.' We had a baffled police officer.


We overdosed, we spoke about it (listen to next weeks Righteous Indignation!) and we took pictures and stuff and then we all went home. It was wonderful though. I met some fantastic people and like to think I made some friends. I hope they'll all be attending the Bristol skeptics in the pub event in February because I'm going to try my hardest to get to Bristol for it. Even if it does mean running for my train, arguing with ticket barriers and bus drivers and nearly dying of frost bite.

I should also point out that on my way home I arrived at my platform 1 minute too late to get the train home from Bristol. Can you believe it? I had to spend £.179 on a hot chocolate that tasted of sugar to kill the time.

I did get home eventually though and I still have my empty Nux Vomica tube as a memento of the time that I went to Bristol, stood in the streets, shouted ‘Homeopathy, there’s nothing in it!’ and proved a point. It might make me a geek, but then a geek I am because it was bloody good fun. Well done to everyone who was involved in making the 10:23 overdose event a success all across the nation!

 
Caption contest time! What is Robert saying to me?