Wednesday, 28 April 2010

I've moved over there -->

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 April 2010

These eyes of mine

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The BCA promote bogus treatments - 'nuff said.

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


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

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


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

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

----

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The gardener

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

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

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

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

Monday, 19 April 2010

The harm that woo does.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shame on them.

The house healer

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

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

She labels the bad energy as three different types:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 17 April 2010

say what?!

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

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

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

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

 Let's just go over that again. 


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

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

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

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

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

A collection of uninteresting thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

All I have to say about the BCA is...

...ha, ha, ha.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A hilarious discovery whilst leafleting

I have just been out in my streets and those that surround it dropping leaflets into letterboxes for the Back The Bridge campaign, urging people to vote NO in the upcoming Parish poll. I had just finished dropping in one particular row of houses, walked around the corner and realised I'd missed one - luckily though this banner was on the side of their house.Could have been embarrassing...
What I found most hilarious about this was how they're so concerned about the £850,000 being spent on the bridge when in fact this money is coming mostly from private funds and grants. Yet, people opposing the bridge have set up a Parish Poll that costs £3000 of tax payers money to organise. Hmm. Double standards? hehe.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare

My Righteous Indignation cohost, Marsh, recently reported how he had tried to find more information on the ADE651 - a woo bomb detector that is basically just a dowsing rod that is given to troops to try and help them detect bombs. It's crazy and you can read more about Marsh's discovery as he tried to find out if they are still on sale or not after the CEO of the company selling them was taken to court on possible fraud charges on the Merseyside skeptics site or by listening to Ep. 43 of Righteous Indignation.

now my opinion of this whole fiasco is that if people are going to let bullshit continue to rule and it is going to endanger people just as the continue of sell of these magic bomb detectors will, then it should be done in style.

Thus, I present 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare.'


Yes, that's right - it looks like a hand, doesn't it?

Well that's because it is a hand. Acutally.

YET the wonderful thing about 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare' is that no purchase is necessay because (not counting amputation, paralysis or tragic deformity) you have two hands of your own.

It gets even better though because it's simply a two step procedure involved with 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare.'


Step one - Curl your chosen 'Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare' into a fist except for your index finger which you should point directly outwards away from your body with your arm extended out in front of you as demonstrated in the picture below.

caution: Children should not be left unattended with 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare' whilst in the hunt for explosives/weapons as this will most definetely result in injury and/or death. Children should also not be used to man checkpoints in war zones because they're lazy and can't be trusted.

Step two - Once you have 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare' set up in accordance with step one (above) then point it at the row of vehicles/people saying "Ip. Dip. Sky. Blue. It. Is. Not. You. Not. Because. You're. Dirty. Not. Because. You're. Clean. My. Mum. Says. You're. The. Fairy. Queen" making sure to move your hand to each individual vehicle/person with each word. Whichever one your hand lands on once the words above have been recited is the fucker with the weapons/bomb/evil stuff and everyone else should be allowed to go on their way. Simple as that really*


 *Caution: All use of 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare' will result in death. If not your own then the death of other innocent people that you may never have met. Possibly on their own or possibly in their masses. If not immediately then it will do in time. The good thing is though that 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare' wont charge your government lots and lots of money for a device that actually does little more than 'The Stevens 666 bomb detector extra wowee supreme extraordinare' which is actually just your hand and a bit of guess work.

Monday, 12 April 2010

A meaningful rant about being a female skeptic who doesn't like being "the cute one"

This past weekend saw lovely weather grace our gardens and my mum, brother and yours truly got out into the garden to sort out an overflowing shed and the odd bits of rubbish laying around the garden. It looks decent out there now but the downside was that my hayfever was playing up something awful. When this happens I tend to get all soppy and emotional and Saturday was particularly bad for this.

As I sat in my bedroom with my eyes streaming, my face itching, wheezing and sneezing editing down a piece of the latest Righteous Indignation podcast I stumbled upon a piece of the listener feedback section in which somebody commented on how I had a nice voice and my already irritated mind went into overdrive and I over reacted.

I went marching downstairs and moaned about it to my mother. Told her how people seeing me as a "cute, adorable female skeptic" had been bugging me for a long, long time and I'd had enough of it. MY already irritated mind was saying "quit! quit!" but the sane part of my brain was going "pfft. As if."

It's hard to explain to people who have never experienced social anxiety personally, but when it gets bad you can't even control the way you feel or the way you think. You know that what you are saying or what you are doing is wrong or not like you but you still do it. It's self destructive and it's difficult to stop (but it is possible.)

Instead of doing something completely irrational I spoke to people whose opinions I respect who gave me some great advice and when I had calmed down and reflected on the whole thing the next day I realised that although I had been overeacting with my initial reaction; there was an issue and it had to be sorted.

I can appreciate that female skeptics are a minority compared to their male counterparts and it's wrong. The Greater Manchester Skeptics recently held an event geared specifically for female skeptics to try and encourage more women to participate in their events which I think is hugely brilliant.

I might be alone in the following thoughts, if I am then so be it, however since I first became involved in Righteous Indignation and became vocal about skepticism I have watched as a pattern emerged that makes my skin crawl slightly. No offence.

Numerous comments have been made in the past year about myself being cute, adorable, sweet and lovely and although it's really nice to be complimented it gets a bit weird when it's me being female that gets peoples attention rather than what I have to say.

I've rarely heard any feedback about the stories I cover on Righteous Indignation (apart from that I recieve from my cohosts.) I put so much time and effort into researching my stories and yet what gets peoples attention seems to be the fact that I'm well spoken and "cute."

This is so upsetting that I can't actually put it into words. It's also quite creepy that people say things online to me or about me that they wouldn't dare say to my face. I am, afterall, a stranger and sometimes the comments are foul, rude and disrespectful. Being online and a vocal female skeptic doesn't mean that it's open game for being a jack ass.

I can appreciate how female voices in skepticism are rare, but if others are treated the same way (I don't know if they are, I'm just speculating...) then is it any wonder that women are turned off from becoming involved?

I'm not claiming that every man that I've spoken to or communicated with in the past year has acted this way; but some have and it's so demoralising that it's often made me question whether I should bother or not. Luckily though I feel very strongly about the things I cover, research and talk about so I do continue.

What's the point of this blog?

Well, I hope that it could serve as a polite request to back the hell off and understand that I am a good skeptic because I know bullshit when I see it; not because you think I sound cute, look adorable or am female. Have some respect please.

If it turns out I'm not a good skeptic for what I do or say then so be it; but I'd rather be classed as a good skeptic because of what I do rather than my gender.

That is all.

A busy week for a not to busy skeptic

This week is going to be mad. On Tuesday (tomorrow) I am travelling up to Manchester for the Greater Manchester Skeptics first Skeptics in the Pub event where Trystan (my RI cohost) will be delivering his talk 'ghosts and the people who hunt them.' After his talk is finished the RI team are going to be doing our first ever live recording in front of the audience which I think will prove to be very interesting because the upside of not being a live podcast is that people don't see or hear what it's really like when we record. Now they will. Yikes!

I should be home late Wednesday and I will have Wednesday & Thursday to prepare for Friday & Saturday which will see me and the Weird Investigations team head to Bristol to the Llandoger Trow. We'll be conducting an investigation event there until 6am on Sunday Morning.

I'm going to be tired but it will be worth it I think.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Meet Lucky...

We love Lucky; we think he rocks and think he's adorable, but...

 
...Lucky is officially not cute, according to PETA.

What 'evil' fucking bastards. Look at his face!! How could you? He's scarred for life, and here I was thinking you cared about animals. Bastards :(

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Constance, don't let the bastards get you down

Reading this account of how Constance McMillen (the teen who wanted to take her girlfriend to her prom whilst wearing a tux) was invited to a fake prom make me really feel bad. Bad that people would pull crazy, discriminatory crap like that even though the eyes of the world are looking upon them. They should be ashamed, but they wont be because they think they're right to do what they've done.
A lesbian student in Mississippi who sued her school for the right to bring her girlfriend to the prom said she was sent to a fake prom instead.

Constance McMillen, 18, told The Advocate that last month's invitation to an alternate prom was a sham, saying that most students attended another dance organized by parents at a secret location.

"They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them," McMillen told the magazine. "The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to."

"It hurts my feelings," she said.

Itawamba Agricultural High School cancelled its prom over the controversy sparked by McMillen's attempt to overturn the school's policy banning same-sex prom dates.

Las month, a federal judge ruled that the school district violated McMillen's constitutional rights, though did not reinstate the prom.

According to McMillen, the prom she attended was at a country club. She said of the five other students at the country club, two had learning disabilities.

"They had the time of their lives," McMillen said. "That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom]."
What a shitty, shitty thing to do, and what a lovely thing for Constance to say. I've mentioned before on my blog that I was made to attend "special lessons" at secondary school from the age of 14 because I was considered as an outcast and my teachers felt that I needed help with my social skills.

They basically had about a dozen of the kids from my year group who were the ones everyone bullied and made us make posters, or write on a blackboard our good qualities vs. our weaknesses. If anything it made us feel even more outcast than the rest of our year; it made us an even bigger laughing stock because when it came to "special lesson time" everyone knew where you were going.

I was not long ago diagnosed with severe social anxiety (in certain situations, it's hard to explain) and that's probably why I was so odd at school and such an outcast. I was different and so got treated differently, it's shit basically, but that's the way it was. 

However, the one good thing that came from the special classes was friendship because the dozen or so of us formed a strong bond; some of us had learning difficulties or mental health issues but that didn't matter because in our little group nothing like that mattered. We'd all been humilated by the way we'd been treated by other students because we were all different in one way or another and because of this we knew exactly what the others had gone through.

Our motto was "don't let the bastards get you down." It was me that came up with it because it was a saying my Great-grandmother had passed onto my mum. So Constance, and anybody else who has ever been excluded by their peers because of who they are and what that are; don't let the bastards get you down.

Monday, 5 April 2010

How many hypocrites does it take to hunt a ghost?

Up until recently I had a pretty passive stance on paranormal television shows because although I didn't like what they did and the misinformation they spread I realised that they were just entertainment shows and as long as people realised that then it was okay.

However, tonight after watching a show called 'Ghost adventures' I was outraged to hear one of the team on there saying that an EMF spike and a temperature reading was scientific proof of a presence. What a jackass thing to say. What an absolutely stupid, stupid, stupid thing to say. I sat there and I looked at my mum (who is also a paranormal researcher) and I shook my head and headbutted the couch because I honestly couldn't believe the bullshit I was hearing. Mum took pictures on her phone of me doing this, much to my embarassment but that's how pissed off it made me.

It's the same with that spoon on Ghost hunters; Steve Gonsalves, who continually spouts off about energy and EMF as though he has a clue what he's on about when in fact, he doesn't. Or how about Yvette Fielding who happily makes out that it's not her or her 'friends' making the planchette on the ouija board move; how outdated can your techniques get love?

These people influence people and they know it. People adore them and then they have the cheek to spread nonsense without doing proper research despite the fact that thousands probably hang onto their every word and don't tell me that they don't because they soooo do. I've seen numerous paranormal teams who are just copy cats of what you see on television, people who quote what Jason and Grant from TAPS say, or people who spend lots of money on a thermal cameras because they see it used on television because apparently they detect cold spots (even though they only measure surface temperatures and wouldn't pick up on a cold spot of air in the middle of a room. Dummies...)

These people don't only spread misinformation though because the likes of Yvette Fielding and the TAPS boys have been proven to fake activity for their shows, and in a recent interview I did with Barry Fitzgerald who appears on Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International he admitted that what you see in one show of these programmes takes a week to film. So that really active six or seven hours they're at the location for is actually something like a hundred hours or so. That's not at all misleading...

You can't trust what you see on television because the only person I have ever seen on a paranormal show who knows what they're on about is someone like Matt Smith or Chris French and they're the ones who get booed! I mean, come on! Please!

I'm sure many people already know you can't trust what television tells you, or the people who stand in front of the camera and pretend they know what they're on about despite the fact that a google search reveals they're carrying a bucket full of bullshit around instead of a head. Yet, although many people involved in paranomal research say they know this and say the reason they research the paranormal is because they don't trust what they see on these television shows it makes me a bit cynical of their claims and actions because if that's the case and they truly are skeptical of these tv shows then....


...WHY THE HELL DO THEY COPY THEM SO MUCH?!?!


Listen; if you want to be a ghost hunter the first thing you have to understand is that that title itself is crap because if you go hunting for a ghost you have already biased your result. The term I like to use is paranormal researcher or oddity investigator because it doesn't mean I sound like I've already reached a conclusion. If you want to be a researcher and you don't like what you see on television then at least have a broad enough vision of what you're dealing with to make sure your skepticism of shows like Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters, Haunted Homes, Dead Famous and Ghost Adventures spreads far enough that it also covers the silly ideas these shows promote because otherwise you're just being hypocritical. Rant over.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

I'm atheist, but it's okay because I'm not contagious!

So it's been A week on facebook and people who are godless and don't follow a religion have been asked to take part by changing their profile pictures to the dreaded scarlet A to help promote the fact that you don't have to be religious to be a good, moral person and to have a reason to live. It's a good message because it's true - you really don't need to worship and invisible being whose existence relies heavily on proof such as a book written by biased men, and some cherry picked personal anecdotes.

I felt it was important to make the statement that I am atheist because although I've never been openly atheist and boisterous with it; I've come to realise over the last year exactly what harm religion does. It's pretty crappy to be honest with you; and I've also learnt how being openly atheist can cause big problems for some people - to the point that they don't want to admit they don't believe in god because of fear from what will happen if they do. Isn't that bad?

I've never had that problem because the people around me have sort of always known that I believe what I do because of the proof I have to hand and that if they don't agree with me well good for them but it's not going to change my mind unless they show me some proof that stands up to scrutiny.

I made the video below to share on youtube because everything I put on there gets more views that anything I put on here; and I want people to know that it's alright for people to be athest. It doesn't make you a bad person to be atheist and that we have one head just like other people. In it I describe how I became atheist and what it means to me. Also, in the video I manage to stop myself going off on a rant at about 2:20 which is sort of amazing, I actually didn't rant.

It's okay to be different from the crowd, you know, it doesn't matter what other people think of you. I've lost friends over my beliefs and that's fine because if those people couldn't accept me for who I am then I don't particularly want them in my life anyway.

Atheists are not bad people, just like Christians are not bad people, or Jewish people. To judge a whole section of society because of a few is stupid. It's like using the nasty folk of Westboro baptist church as an example for their religion, it just doesn't work because it just isn't true.

I'm atheist but it's okay because I'm not contagious because atheism isn't a disease, it isn't a bad thing and it doesn't define who I am and it shouldn't be viewed as such. Amen to that.

Interesting

My Political Views
I am a left moderate social libertarian
Left: 5.14, Libertarian: 3.49

Political Spectrum Quiz

I'm just a miserable atheist but I still don't agree with kids being raped.

The news about the catholic children who have been raped by those that they trusted, and then let down by their faith when the crime was covered up has disgusted me just as it has disgusted many. I haven't written about it because I can't find the words to say what it is I want to say. I couldn't even explain to my brother (who doesn't exactly keep up to date with world events) what had been been going on.

Yet, this morning on Twitter I stumled upon this news story and it made me sick with anger. I just don't get how the vatican can be so blind to the crimes that have been comitted! How can they try and twist this whole thing and make it look as though they and the accused are victims?! This is bad enough on its own. They are not victims; this is simply their cruel misuse of their power coming back to haunt them.

But they had to add the icing to the already bitter cake by comparing the current situation they are in to the persecution of Jewish people. Disgusting. Stephan Kramer, general-secretary of Germany's Central Council of Jews, described the remarks as offensive and repulsive and I agree fully with him. He said "So far I haven't seen St Peter's burning, nor were there outbursts of violence against Catholic priests."

Yet the Vatican have stated that the comments that were made by Father Cantalamessa had not been the Vaticans official position. No, because the Vaticans official position is one of what seems to be feigned ignorance. The world now knows what has been happening, it's not a question of if padophiles have been allowed to abuse children, but a question of how many children have been abused, and by how many peadophiles and for how long without the appropriate legal action being taken against them. Just how many individual crimes have they covered up? *sigh* I know a large proportion of my family are Catholic and I'm sure some of them must come here and read what I write and I have nothing against them having their faith. I don't like religion - no, that's weak. I hate religion, but I don't hate people because they choose to follow a religion. This isn't a dig at catholic people; just those catholic people who covered up inexcusable crimes against vulnerable children who were promised hell if they didn't do as they were told.

Oh, and in other religious news, it would seem some people have been reenacting the cruxifiction this Easter weekend to show their dedication to their god and his son. I'm sorry - but anyone who can celebrate human sacrifce (whether it happened or not) make me question their ability to think about what they're doing. Hmm.

Gosh, I'm a miserable atheist, aren't I? I apologise if I offend anybody with my personal stance on religion, but these past few weeks have been full of crappy religious news that speaks of irrefutable and unforgivable harm being done to people in their masses and it's pissed me off. The above has all been written whilst I've munched on hot cross buns; they're the only decent thing to come out of easter.


Friday, 2 April 2010

A year of skepticism

If you had asked me a year ago what I would be doing in a years time, I wouldn't have guessed correctly. Perhaps I would have estimated I'd still be working for Slave masters plc. - trying to please those above me so I could earn a place higher up the chain. I would have been wrong though because I walked out of that job after two years of bullying. I have too much self respect to stay in a place that makes me psychologically ill and I'm still recovering from that a whole year on.

I wouldn't have even made a guess at my involvement with the highly popular podcast; righteous indignation - because it was in May of 2009 that we made our first ever (cringe worthy) episode. Thousands of listeners later and the show is going from strength to strength. I've made loads of great skeptical friends and people are listening to what I say and it's great and scary all at the same time. Becoming involved with RI was a chance that was thrown my way by Trystan nearly a year ago and I thought "why not?" and I am so glad I did.

In the past year I have learnt some very vital lessons about skepticism and critical thinking; I've managed to come to understand logical fallacies and how we're not all safe from using them in our day to day lives. A year ago I didn't understand the huge impact anti-vaccination groups have and I didn't know half of the problem that is alternative medicine. Since a year ago though I have spoken publically about skepticism to around two hundred people (and I got cornered by the spiritualist afterwards, which made it worth while), I've interviewed people that I never dreamed I would talk to, I've made friends with people I had admired for a long time, I've developed the ability to challenge things that I know are wrong such as promotion locally of dangerous health advice, I've build a local health directory that shows the truth about the multitude of alt-med available in my town to counter the huge promotion of bullshit on a local level, I've overdosed on homeopathy in a mass protest, I've had people knock on my front door to tell me they agree with me (thanks, if you're reading)and apparently I've inspired other people to become more vocally skeptical. It's been an amazing year and I've learnt so much about the world around me, not to mention myself.

I'm just an average person that you wouldn't look twice at when I'm walking down the street; I don't have any major qualifications or an amazingly successful career - however, I don't believe you need these things to be happy, unless of course they are what make you happy.

The biggest thing I have learnt in the past year is that one person can make a huge difference, no matter how insignificant it might be. You just have to keep yourself in check; keep yourself up to date with information and keep at whatever it is you are trying to do. The thing I love most about the skeptic community is that not knowing something isn't a weakness, as long as you are willing to ask and learn about it. There are always people out there willing to help you and it's wonderful.

Gosh, I seem to have gone all sentimental and I apologise. This blog post was spawned from a morning of pondering what has come to pass in the last year. I didn't realise it was so much until then and it sort of blew my crazy little mind.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

To hell with what you think, m'dear.

When I first set out as a paranormal researcher all that time ago in 2005 I made the promise that I wouldn't "sell out" to fame and fortune over my research and investigation cases. This was because a high number of people have carved themselves a career from ghosts and ghost investigation and spreading misleading ideas about what it involves and equates to. That's their choice, but it was something I always promised not to do. I never have.
Wiltshire Phenomena Research was formed to help me to answer questions I had about phenomena I witnessed during my younger years; questions I was unable to answer from watching television shows or reading books, and five years later I feel that I am at the stage from which I can look back and understand what it is the led me to experience what I did. This didn't mean I was then going to fold the team because there was much more to explore.

This year we have launched 'project pied piper' in which we're going to explore a lot of the local myths and legends that have survived time - such as little peopl being seen at Avebury, and local woodlands that are supposed to house banshees. Not many paranormal research teams look into this sort of phenomena - certainly not any that are local to me. That's our contribution to the field of research; That and the fact that we help promote critical thinking within the field through our website and local events that we help to run. Oh, and talks.


This is something that I know some people don't like, and quite frankly it's tough shit. I spoke at Weird '09 last August about skepticism in ghost hunting and I was questioned about why, when I originally said I didn't want fame and fortune. Well, sorry to disappoint my critics, but I still don't want fame and fortune from what I do. The reason I spoke is because I hoped that maybe some people would listen to what I said and take away with them a better understanding of how skepticism worked in the research field.

I have agreed to talk at Nottingham skeptics in the pub about ghost hunting and possibly the female role in skepticism because they asked me to. Not because I asked them if I could, but because they wanted me to. It's in no way self serving; I make no money from it, and my talk will be trying to clear up some of the misconceptions that skeptics can have about ghost research because believe me, they can have some HUGE misconceptions about it. 


I whole heartedly support the skeptics in the pub events and when I was asked by the Nottingham organisers to talk at their event I said yes because I wanted to help them, and secretly, I've never been to a skeptics in the pub before and I've never been to Nottingham before and it was appealing and I'm looking forwards to it.

The key to critical thinking in all walks of life is that it needs to be continually promoted; this can be done through writing articles (which I do), talking to people face to face (which I do) and also through other forms of media such as websites, newsletters or podcasts and videos (all of which I do.)

I'm no expert, I'm not a genius and I have never claimed to be; however, I do understand how important it is to be skeptical and to spread the importance of skepticism. I was asked in May last year if I would like to cohost the Righteous Indignation podcast with Trystan because he said I was direct with my opinions which would work well for the show. I accepted and with a hell of a lot of hard work and effort on all parts the show has become more sucessful than either of us could have imagined (with help from Jamie, Marsh, Pete, Dr*T, Gav and of our guest hosts and friends and promoters of course.) Does this mean I'm a terrible investigator or person for agreeing to do the show? Well, I don't think it does but of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I don't consider myself to be famous from the podcast and I certainly don't make any money from it; but I have had numerous emails and messages from people about how Righteous Indignation made them feel it was okay to be vocally skeptical without being a qualified expert on something, and that's a great effect for us to have. Righteous Indignation rocks and I'm glad that Im part of the team behind it.

I also write numerous articles and posts for numerous websites; the main being BadPsychics - for whom I also contribute podcast segments because, no matter what personal issues the members of badpsychics have with other people, the underlying lesson to be learnt from the 'bad network' is a good lesson and I wholeheartedly support it. Does that mean I'm fame hungry because when Jon Donnis asks me to write and article or contribute a podcast story I do it? Hell no. I'm just helping out where I can and I have no reason to say no.

Quite frankly, I don't need to explain myself or my actions to anybody but I've become tired of being treated as though I have done something wrong by seemingly becoming more involved in the world of skepticism than the paranormal research field. I haven't. Only the members of Wiltshire Phenomena Research know exactly what is going on within Wiltshire Phenomena Research, nobody else does.

I don't have an ego big enough to even consider the idea that what I do is important to phenomena research, and I don't care if other people don't believe that I do enough because there are people out there that do a lot less than I do - do far worse than I do, and don't care about it. If by spreading critical thinking and skepticism by doing a podcast that reaches thousands of people, and doing a few interviews that reach no more, and writing an article that will only be read by a handful of people it makes you feel that I am a bad person, then so be it. My friends and supporters far outweigh my critics.

If my fellow researchers feel that what I "have become" or "what I now do" is "laughable" and embarrasing to the paranormal research field, then so be it. They aren't being forced to think of me as a fellow researcher. I've become tired of having to think that "if I do this, so and so will think..." - to hell with what so and so thinks. I'm Hayley Stevens, and live my life by my standards and nobody elses. Deal with it.

Speak up. I can't hear you.