Saturday, December 16, 2017

Book Revisit: The Amityville Horror

I first read the Amityville Horror back in 1976 or 1977. At the time I was in middle school. I have no idea how the book came to me, it just appeared in the house. It was probably a gift from someone to my mother. She was a big reader and a long time lover of murder mystery novels and the like. Especially true stories.

What caught my eye were the flies on the cover. That and the big Satan's tail. The Satan's tail part was a pretty slick bit of marketing for a post Manson America. In the 70's much of America still very much obsessed with the idea of evil Satanic cults running around either corrupting or sacrificing impressionable teens. Much of that fear was of Satan crazed, hippie like young people enacting Manson like mayhem, but that was not all people feared. Much of America, then and now, believed in a very literal, very real Satan who, although incorporeal, is able to interact with and act upon the corporal world. To many people Manson represented the end product of such an interaction.

For me, it was the flies. They were huge, nasty, and pretty real looking. They seemed to be saying "Don't read this, it is evil!" which pretty much made it irresistible. So yeah, I read it. And it was pretty frightening.

The original book I read had photos. They showed the actual house, members of the Defeo family, newspaper clippings about the murders, and crime scene photos. All of which gave it a "this is real" vibe. I was not unaffected by the times either. On a cultural, social level, not quite on the level of conscious recognition, I was primed to believe from numerous sources. After finishing the book I literally had to move it out of my bedroom so I could sleep. That too was ultimately really all about the flies. They just looked so real, as if they might come off the page and fly around in my room in the middle of the night while I slept. Looking back I realize while I knew that was impossible and just wasn't going to happen in that part of my world where rational and logical thought holds sway, subconsciously it was not nearly so improbable and in fact maybe fairly likely.

I have also since come to understand, when it comes to matters of fear and extreme emotion, the logical, rational mind really isn't always the primary origination point of human thought.

It is now 2017 and after 40 years and maybe six different movie versions later I have read the book a second time. There is no denying the cultural power and influence of this book over those 40 years. There is also no denying that power and influence 40 years later is somewhat diminished. The times are different. Today's fears are not the same as those of 1976. Satanic cults have not spawned hordes of demonically possessed, drugged crazed hippies despoiling graveyards, killing cats, and murdering pregnant women in the dead of night. We are far less worried about Satan as a Judeo Christian boogey man. That aspect of the culture which provided fuel for the cultural phenomenon and near hysterical theater experience which was the movie the Exorcist has changed. Possession movies and stories are still pretty good but they don't really grab you by the gut as they did back then.

I also found the writing to be a bit juvenile, something that I just didn't notice back then. I was still reading Hardy Boys books after all. Don't get me wrong. The book is mainly written as a reporter duly recounting a story second hand. That was and is still a part of the book's power. Yet, the writing is just a tad bit unpolished. I will explain by example. How polished would my blog writing be is I finished every paragraph with an exclamation point!

Otherwise, how would you know something exciting had just happened, right?

Still, 40 years later, despite six or so movies and a complete shift in culture, despite its writing flaws, I found it an enjoyable read. The story is a good story and it is written in a clean, matter of fact manner. It doesn't really affirm or deny, it is this is what I was told. The basic facts of the story are absolutely true. The Defeos did live and all but one die in that house. The Lutz family did move in and move out shortly thereafter, leaving all behind. To that degree at least, this is a true story.

As to the rest, the supernatural component? Much of the corroboration of the details Jay Anson, who died in 1980, cited have since supposedly been debunked or at least discounted somewhat. However, much has not. The basic question did something happen or did nothing happen has not been definitively answered to this day.

If you are interested, the last time I looked, which was just a few years ago, there were still articles and information about the actual events on the web, including examinations of the supernatural aspects of the story.

And yes, I do have a certain level of nostalgia for the 70's, for that less incredulous if not actually more innocent time when the Exorcist could scare the holy BeJesus out of anyone and everyone. I am still primed to believe at least a little. I kind of really want to stay that way.

Woodstock, Georgia
December 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Hallowe'en Encounter - A Bubba Jr Tale

Halloween is come. Yet I am thinking not so much of candy and plastic or rubber masks. Rather, I am thinking of older times. Perhaps some racial or genetic memory calls down the centuries flown. My pagan ancestors, speaking in faint whispers, some ancient humming along the usually insensitive antennae of my DNA.  Suddenly the word Halloween doesn’t fit on my tongue. Nor Hallowe’en. Not even All Hallows Eve. No, the right word is…. Samhain. The coming of the dark half. It is not a celebration, not a fall festival. It is a wake. It is the death of the old year, the end of light and warmth, and the beginning of the long dead of winter. I imagine hearing the words of the shaman, a druid priest, speaking beneath bushy brows and fierce eyes, to beware. For this night, after darkness falls, as midnight waxes, the wall which separates this world from that other becomes thin. So that others may pass. Others….and the dead. Not only to pass, but to speak, and to be heard. If you dare.

Feeling that call, I make my way. As the shadows of encroaching night gather beneath old oaks, their bare branches questing for the darkening sky even as their roots grasp the cold ground, I find myself standing. Standing before tomb stones. My familial plot. Why here? I ask myself. Do I really think to hear some dear voice, long silent, speak as dry leaves skitter over my feet? It all begins to seem so, irrational. Even so, I seem to be possessed with a sense of abandon. My decision made, I set upon the old marble border which marks the extent of the ground where relatives lay, unseeing and unknowing.

Presently I see a figure marching along an approaching path. It has become quite dim now, so he moves as a shadow within shadows. Yet, I can see it is a man with grey hair, wearing a hat.

“They’re coming to get you Barbara” I whisper, chuckling.

Still he comes, marching to some unheard cadence. Soon he is close enough I can see it is a military uniform he wears. But what kind? Everything about him seems strangely colorless. He is all grey. His face a blur of lighter grey floating within darker grey borders.

I suddenly realize I should be frightened, yet I am not. Again, there is a sense of abandoning…something. Fear perhaps? It is, after all, Samhain.

Before too long he stands before me. I see he is indeed an old man. His greyish face is pulled tight against his closed mouth, like a man clinching his jaws against a long remembered bitter taste. His uniform is now distinct and clearly old. Civil war I guess. Once again, the thought passes briefly, I should be scared, but I am not. I am now feeling and acting as a dreamer in a dream, one I am strangely aware has no power to touch me in any corporal sense.

The words slip out of my mouth, almost of their own volition. “Whose color’s do you wear?”

His bright moonlit grey ghost marble eyes turn to me. His lips part like someone who has forgotten speech, forgotten speech even existed. I wait in quiet anticipation. Until he finally speaks in a faint whisper.

“Whose colors…..I had forgotten. Color.”

His voice becomes stronger.

“I wore the colors of the cause, son.”

“The cause….”

His eyes, now becoming less distinct in the gather dark, lift to peer at some unseen horizon. His shoulders straighten with some new vigor as he speaks, as it turns out, one last time.

“There comes a time when your colors don’t seem to matter so much. When all you see is red. Red everywhere. Rivers of red, flowing like tears. Futile, bitter tears. Then everything turns black and finally, finally everything fades to grey. Nothing but grey. And before long no one even remembers your name, least wise no one comes to speak it. Everything you ever worried or fought about, it just don’t matter no more. Then all you want is rest. You gotta let it go and……rest. That’s where I’m heading. Gonna find that place.”

I really didn’t know what to say, he seemed so sad and yet, there was a certain gallantry and calm to his resignation. I couldn’t meet his eyes, so instead I looked to the ground at my feet. Finally I looked up to face his gaunt determination and…..

He was gone.

And soon so was I. Back to the warmth and light of home.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Gun Control: Facts on Guns

Today I am going to tackle the current debate on gun control. Well kind of. I am not going to try and persuade one way or the other. For this blog entry I am going to do nothing more than give facts. Much of what you hear about the topic from both sides is inaccurate and down right misleading. I will be neither of those things. I will also link some Youtube videos so you can take those facts and place them into real world context. I will also include appropriate excerpts from Wikipedia at the end so you can understand what exactly an "assault rifle" really is.

It may not be obvious to those who are completely unfamiliar with guns but the term “assault weapon” is essentially meaningless. It is not a term the military uses. In the modern world the vast majority of semi-automatic weapons use a detachable magazine. What differentiates an “assault weapon” from any other weapon using a detachable magazine as defined by the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban is the addition of features which essentially do nothing to make it a “military” weapon. As you will see, detachable magazines have been around and in common civilian use for 112 years. By the way, a grenade launcher is really a fanciful term when you can’t buy grenades. Call it a flare gun, which is what it really is.

Now for a bit of history.

Benjamin Tyler Henry invented the Henry repeating rifle in 1862. Not a true semi-auto, it still had to be cocked between each shot. The original Henry rifle used in limited numbers in the Civil War held 15 .44 caliber cartridges in a tubular magazine. These were 200 grain loads with a muzzle velocity of 1200 feet per second. The 1873 Henry rifle, often chambered for the more powerful .44-40 cartridge, is basically the famous cowboy rifle.
Today’s modern semi-auto rifle was essentially born with the introduction of the 1905 Winchester “self loading” rifle. These came chambered as either .32 or .35 calibers with 5 or 10 round capacity magazines. While there have been improvements in loading mechanisms and magazine design the basic concept has not changed.

The submachine gun was developed in World War I (1914 - 1918). The term was coined by John T. Thompson, the inventor of the Thompson Machine Gun. Submachine guns as essentially machine guns chambered to fire pistol cartridges.
The first assault rifle is generally recognized to be the Sturmgewehr 44, introduced by Germany in World War II. Supposedly named by Adolf Hitler, the word Sturmgewehr literally means storm. Same as elements of the German army were known as Storm Troopers. Or as we would call them assault troops. The weapon was designed based upon the idea most firefights occur with opposing forces being within 300 yards of each other. See the linked video below for a very cool demonstration of this weapon.
The M1 Garand was introduced at the end of World War II. The basic difference between the M1 and the Winchester 1905 is the magazine is not detachable. Rapid loading is achieved by using a clip. This allows the gun to be fully reloaded and cocked for firing in one smooth motion.

I own and have used semi-automatic weapons with magazines in all three configurations above. Ranging from a .22 tubular fed long rifle (which holds 17 rounds by the way) up to an M1 style .308 high powered deer rifle. All of which are very much lethal weapons. Weapons similar to each one have been used as military weapons. Calibers from .22 and up have been used as military weapons.

Below are Youtube links so you can see exactly how these types of guns operate. They are every bit as lethal and in the case of a high powered rifle more lethal than an AR 15.

The following information comes from Wikipedia.

The U.S. Army defines assault rifles as "short, compact, selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges." In a strict definition, a firearm must have at least the following characteristics to be considered an assault rifle:

  • It must be capable of selective fire.
  • It must have an intermediate power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle.
  • Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable box magazine.
  • It must have an effective range of at least 300 meters (330 yards).

Rifles that meet most of these criteria, but not all, are technically not assault rifles, despite frequently being called such.

For example:

  • Select-fire M2 carbine are not assault rifles; their effective range is only 200 yards.[17]
  • Select-fire rifles such as the FN FAL battle rifle are not assault rifles; they fire full-powered rifle cartridges.
  • Semi-automatic-only rifles like variants of the Colt AR 15 are not assault rifles; they do not have select-fire capabilities.
  • Semi-auto rifles with fixed magazines are not assault rifles; they do not have detachable box magazines and are not capable of automatic fire.

The term assault rifle, when used in its proper context, militarily or by its specific functionality, has a generally accepted definition with the firearm manufacturing community. In more casual usage, the term assault weapon is sometimes confused with the term assault rifle. In the United States "assault weapons" are usually defined in legislation as semi-automatic firearms that have certain features generally associated with military firearms, including assault rifles. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons ban, which expired on September 13, 2004, codified a definition of an assault weapon. It defined the rifle type of assault weapon as a semiautomatic firearm with the ability to accept a detachable magazine and two or more of the following:

  • a folding or telescoping stock
  • a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon
  • a bayonet mount
  • a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor
  • a grenade launcher

End Wikipedia

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Let be be Finale of Seem, the Odd Connectivity Between the News and Freddy Kreuger

It is Saturday the 16th of September and like every Saturday I am blessed to be drinking good coffee with my wonderful wife, while our poor mistreated yet spoiled silly kitties alternate between begging for more yummy and playing cat tag over every square inch of the house. Meanwhile, our house horses, a Great Dane and a German Shepherd, preside over the basement. No doubt anticipating the morning grub run.

Speaking of which, I honestly can't stand Sheppard Smith on Fox. It isn't his condescending, snarky delivery, though that does suck. It isn't even the way he keeps interjecting his personal bias in a condescendingly snarky manner, though that sucks too. No, my dislike goes way beyond such superficial concerns. I just think if they are going to paint a face on the man they aught to at least make it resemble a human face. I have seen better airbrush jobs on T shirts in Florida. But ol' Shep isn't the only painted pundit (Ack! Argle!) on TV. There is also Chris Cuomo and George Stuffituphisbuttous. Consider the following unimpeachable evidence:

No offense, but other people in the business of upchucking bile and partially digested farm animal feces directly into the collective face of America manage to look less manikinish when they are at it. Though perhaps the in your face faux human look is actually fitting. It goes with the overall tone. Though fake, could it be unintentionally honest? A fraudulent Freudian faux pas perhaps.
For some reason they remind me of the Prime Mediator from the movie Robot Overlords, a robot made into a fake yet disturbingly similar image of a human. His job is to keep humans subjugated and demoralized, working with traitors to fool and mislead.

 People who know me will understand, a movie metaphor is an inevitability. I stand by this one.
Oh, but there is more. Something else jumped out at me. I wonder at no one noticing this suspicious coincidence. Our country is supposed to be crawling with conspiracy theorists, tin foil hattists, and fake newsologists. You guys are falling down, bad. How did this get past you?
What are the odds Chris Cuomo and Rand Paul both see the same stylists or hair restoration clinic? Yeah, me neither. But notice how Rand appears somehow, more human. But wait, there is more!
Connections. There are connections everywhere in the secret make up departments and hair restoration clinics of the halls of power. Connections they don't want us to know about. Speaking of which, has anyone at any time or place ever seen George StuckinHillarysAss's hair actually move? Is it even real? Is anything we see on the dumb box real? Or is it just a dream within a dream? A pan spinning in the wind to confound crows?
"Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream"
"Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream."
Credit: Wallace Stevens & Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Berkeley Earth Super Duper Exposed

Over the past week I have spent a lot of my spare time examining the Berkeley Earth temperature data to a greater depth than ever before. What I have found is shocking. It is unbelievable just how bad the dataset they are using truly is. There is no science here. This is fraud at worst, gross incompetence at best. Perhaps the best way to explain what I found is to explain how I went about examining and organizing their data.

The first thing I realized was Excel was just not powerful enough to handle the complexity and size of the task of data analysis. So I imported the information into an Access database. Access is capable of handling far more records than Excel. It is also far more powerful.

The very first thing I did was to examine how complete the records were. I want to look at annual averages. So I ran a query to order all the records by station and by year. Then I looked at how many readings each station had for each year. What I found were thousands of incomplete years. Some had only one month. Obviously, you can't compute an annual average for a year when there are not 12 months recorded. Considering how the temperatures vary in one year, a missing month can skew the average by quite a bit. It is certainly an inaccurate record which can not be used.

I also found dozens of records with more than 12 readings in one year. In fact I found as many as 99 monthly averages recorded for one station in one year. These are obviously duplicate records.

After I extracted from the original dataset only those years with complete records and eliminated all the duplicate records the number of stations dropped from over 4600 to 3127. In other words some 32% of the stations were eliminated because they consistent of incomplete or duplicate data. That is a really high casualty rate.

The final step was to create the program to generate the information I wanted to extract from the set of complete annual data. Based upon a start date and an end date, the program extracts every station with a complete record for each year in the date range, and then reports the annual average temperature of all stations for each year. Secondarily, the program also provides a count of stations.

Below is a screen grab of the program output for 1975 through 1980.

So, I now have a database tool which can almost instantly generate a record of temperatures from stations continuously reporting between any two years between 1880 and 2004. This is where my next graph comes in.

Do you see the problem here? Out of 3127 stations in the record only 2 contain a complete record from 1880 to 2004. Only 5 were continuously reporting from 1950 to 2004. That includes the original 2 by the way. There were only 44 stations reporting from 1980 to 2004. There were 380 stations reporting from 2000 to 2004. Yet, in 2004 there were 805 stations reporting.

So it appears the only usable data in the entire 120 MB's of original data is that from just two stations. The rest of it is too fragmentary, incomplete, or just does not cover enough time to be useful. Just two stations, one in Russia and one in Switzerland.

This is all they have. Unbelievable.

Just two more graphs and we will call it a day. I think these are pretty self explanatory.

Below is a graph showing the high and low annual averages for each year from 1900 to 2004. You will notice only the lowest reading vary, and they vary hugely. You are looking at temperatures in the -55° C  (-67° F) range. That would be Antarctica. You are seeing the effects of 12 stations running from 1953 to 1994 for periods ranging from 42 years to 1 year. Do you think having 2, 3 or 12 annual averages at such an extreme might have some noticeable affect on the "global average"? This is an extreme example of how ridiculous this entire business truly is.

Here is the record of stations reporting by year from 1900 through 2004. Enough said, don't you think?

Dog Daze

Here we are, the 22nd of July, and I am in Georgia. This is a miserable time of the year in my home state. Hot. Humid. You don't get that evening temperature drop after the sun goes down. We calls 'em dog days. You would suspect that has something to do with dogs, because dogs don't sweat. Dogs pant. A lot. Historically speaking, it is tough to be a big hairy dog in Georgia around this time of year. In days of old, dogs would be known to invade the root cellar or hide up under a cool front porch or in the crawl space under a house. Some place shady with open dirt, because those places tend to be cooler than most. Dogs also like to roll in mud and swim around in the kind of ponds typically found in cow pastures.

Dogs who have been rolling in mud or swimming in water subject to cow pie contamination are generally speaking not the ideal bed buddy. The last thing you want rummaging around the bed with you on a hot July night is a big, hairy, hot, reeking of wet dog, dog breathing gallons of hot doggie breath on you for extra good measure.

All things considered, dog days is a pretty apt description of this time of year.

However the origins of the term are not here in the wilting summers of the south and the sufferings of hairy dogs. The term comes to us down through the ages from the ancient Greeks. In late July the star Sirius becomes visible, appearing to rise at dawn, just before the sun. Sirius is called the dog star, because it is part of the constellation Canis Major, which the Greeks imagined to be a dog chasing a rabbit. Sirius is the dogs nose. The time of the year where Sirius rises were therefore called dog days.

Of course the Romans conquered Greece, then conquered pretty much everything all the way to Scotland. Later on Shakespeare wrote a bunch of plays featuring Romans and so forth. Mark Twain wrote the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which featured disreputable thespians doing Othello don't you know. Somewhere in an amongst all that hoopla and flap doodle the ancient Greeks and that entire astronomy part just kinda dropped off. As far as we are concerned nowadays, Homer is Bart Simpson's Dad. It is what it is.

Having read both Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, having once watched the movie Romeo and Juliet as part of an English Lit class in high school, and being a true native of the south I am somewhat of an expert on these matters. Plus I have been to the planetarium at the Fernbank Science Center. Twice.

You can trust me on this one.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

2016 Was the hottest year evah! Or was it?

According to Berkeley Earth and a bunch of other people, 2016 was the hottest year ever. Again. It seems like every year the ministers of information on all things climate related seem to make the same statement. Today I am going to deconstruct this claim focusing on Berkeley Earth specifically.

The picture below compares my graph of the Berkeley Earth data with their graph. Since my graph goes farther back, I have marked three common points. From this you can see, other than a minor Y axis scaling difference and a different ending date, the two graphs are identical. I have made no alterations to the data of any kind. At the end of this piece I will provide precise information so any who wish to do so can verify my work.

Now, let's begin deconstructing the data from which both charts above were made.
When organizations such as Berkeley Earth presents a graph of data to the public they are asking you to believe their data. The proof, as they say, is in the data. Yet, they are in fact lying to you by omission. They are omitting important details concerning not only where their data comes from but when. The illusion they are creating is you are looking at a continuous, consistent record of temperature over a very long span of time. That is absolutely not the case. From 1950 to 2004 a total of 2789 temperature reporting stations were opened while an additional 2349 were shuttered. That is a very important detail.

In order to properly assess data trends over a long period of time it is absolutely essential to establish consistent, stable measuring points without bias over the entire length of the time period being studied. If you move or change a measuring point or if you add or subtract measuring points you introduce additional variability into the data not created by the system being studied.

Take for example measuring the annual fluctuations of the water level in a large reservoir. To do that you would establish one or more stable locations from which to measure. Such as driving a pylon down into the lake bed until a firm under structure is reached and attaching a measuring device to the stable platform. What you would not do is drive around in a boat every year taking a number of depth readings at random locations. That would give you a lot of very useless data.

My conclusion, which is well warranted, is the complete Berkeley Data set is worthless for trend analysis and forecasting. As I stated above, in order to be useful in that manner a data set must consist of continuous, stable measuring points. The Berkeley data set, taken as a whole, is anything but that. There is, however, data with in the complete set which is valuable.

In 1951 there were 576 stations which came on line. Of those stations 211 maintained continuous, reasonably consistent measurements for 50 years. The graph below is the result of those 50 years of measurements from those stations.

This is a drastically different result from that of the complete data set. Instead of a pronounced warming trend as in the complete data set, we see a slight cooling trend of less than .25° C. Essentially this is no change as the year to year variability is many times greater than the total projected change.

The conclusion from this study is no evidence of any warming. None.

You can replicate my data for this time period or for any time period within the data set. As long as you follow the guidelines for a proper time based study of temperature trends, namely you can only use data from stations reporting for the entire time period being studied, you will get similar results. No warming, slight warming, or slight cooling. What you will not find is any warming trend even remotely resembling the chart put forth by Berkeley Earth. That is fact.

The methodology I have followed using their data is the correct one. The results I have derived are therefore valid. The methodology Berkeley Earth uses is, as I discussed above, very much incorrect and therefore their results are not valid.

Update: I follow a number of climate blogs and engage in conversation with a number of people. One of those blogs is the Deplorable Climate Science Blog by Steve Goddard. A reader on there passed this youtube clip on to me. This clip shows how the number and locations of climate stations have changed over time. During the period where the "experts" say warming has increased dangerously what you see is exactly what I stated. Large numbers of stations in colder climates disappear while stations in hotter parts of the world appear.

Additional information concerning data and source

My data source. I used the raw, unadjusted data from land based measurements:

Below is the break down of the 211 stations used for my study based upon the long term annual average temperature for each station.

Below are the stations numbers I used for my study.