Tuesday, April 22, 2014

“Remembering Lorelei”, “A Snipers’ Conflict”, Dates and the Publishing of Books



During the 1990s, as part of my endeavours to set up a Technology Diversification Centre to bring business to the South of England, I was travelling to various events across the region, as well as to London. One of those events was in Basingstoke, at the Anvil Centre, as I remember, though not the details, other than meeting one of the Army authors who had made something of a name for themselves. I am not completely sure whether it was Chris Ryan, or Andy McNab, though, at this distance in time, I am not sure which one. The event was, primarily, business based but the author, his books and my own emerging interest in writing a book, chronicling the remarkable personal events that had taken place in the early 1990s in particular, had drawn me to the small literary component of the proceedings. There were still many remarkable developments involving higher level, non-physical, matters during those years and they would continue for many more but that is subject matter for potential sequels.


“A Sniper’s Conflict”

I recalled the above when I learned, “on the grapevine”, about the progress of another book in the genre, “A Sniper’s Conflict” by Monty B, published by Barbarossa Books. Of course, as is the case with many, most, books these days, “A Sniper’sConflict” is available on Amazon.

There was interest on my part for two reasons. The first was that, some time ago, I had been invited to a meeting, as well as being picked up and driven there, at which someone, who turned out to be Monty B, a retired Army Officer, was present. I had not met him before, nor have I since, and I did not know much about his proposed book at the time, other than its title and general theme. I looked the book up on the Internet and read what was available about it on Barbarossa Books and Amazon U.K., and might buy it sometime, out of curiosity, though it is not exactly my type of book. On the other hand I got the impression that it is quite a popular genre, which is, presumably, why Barbarossa have given Monty B a contract and there will be more books. The second reason was that while I would wish any author well, there was a little chagrin involved as my own book, “Remembering Lorelei” was finished, at long last, in October 2013 but I am still not sure when it will be available. I had, originally, expected “Remembering Lorelei” to beat the release date of “A Sniper’s Conflict” by a good three, or four, months.

Recently, someone I know had a day out with a friend, who had heard more about Monty B’s book. Part of the little I heard, via that route, was that “A Sniper’s Conflict” had been the best seller on Amazon for a day, in the U.K. at least. Because of the earlier mentioned meeting at which the author was present and being interested enough to look the book up on the Internet more than just the once, I found that Barbarossa Books had been trailing its publishing date for a few months, so, perhaps, that contributed to the peak, though it appears to be doing quite well anyway and I had already gathered there were other books to follow.


Stansted House Christmas Fair, Loykey Jennings and “The Shadow of Old London Town”

On 24th November 2013, Jo and I went to the Christmas Fair at Stansted House.

One of the exhibitors, in the Garden Centre area, was Loykey Jennings, of Loykey and Lillibit, children’s authors. I had quite a long conversation with Loykey, whose name, it transpired, was the Chinese equivalent of Lloyd and that version was down to his mother. Books, in general, as well as the publishing of them and our different interests, were, mostly, what we talked about. I said that my publishing prospects were, at that time, with Arima Publishing, who had agreed to take on my book “Remembering Lorelei”, on a previous occasion before the glitches in my computer, the hang-ups and delays, indicating no great difference during a telephone conversation with Richard Franklin, at Arima, in September 2013.

Loykey said they sold their books privately, directly, deliberately avoiding Amazon and similar outlets. From the beginning, they knew what they wanted in terms of presentation of their books, found what suited them in the way one of Jamie Oliver’s books was put together, contacted the publishers, or at least printers, in Italy, negotiated with them and had their books produced their way.

As I recall from my conversation with Loykey “The Spirit of Old London Town” is a story about a friendly phantom, ghost, who guides children around London and involves a series of puzzles to be solved as the reader progresses through the story, learning more about London on the way.

Loykey’s and Lillibit’s way with books had worked for them to the extent that there latest book had sold in excess of six thousand copies in the previous twelve months


“Remembering Lorelei”

The history of my book, “Remembering Lorelei”, certainly in the sense of finalising and publishing it, is rather longer than I would wish, embarrassingly so, really, especially the delays, which are really down to me. The existing manuscript of “Remembering Lorelei” only runs up to mid-1994 and should have been published many, at least several, years ago. The nature of the book is such that it was always going to be at least a little problematic, because it is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, unique; well, who else has written an autobiographical book involving their Soulmate, of many millennia, who, in one of their lifetimes together, was not just famous but a Legend.

The content of “Remembering Lorelei” covers my earlier life in four retrospective chapters but the first chapter opens with Lorelei’s appearance in this lifetime of mine, at a Healing Arts Exhibition, in London, in the early 1990s. I had felt a presence before, albeit ill defined, though on that occasion I saw her in considerable detail, even if I did not know who she was until sometime later. That which came out over the following three years, the events, the memories which came back, not just from this lifetime but many others, included some in which we had been together before, including one in which I was a German huntsman, Kurt Langerhan and she was the person, it appears, from whom the Legend derives, at least in part. The latter is more easily understood from the German point of view, interpretation, my understanding of which is, mostly as a result of a conversation with Dr Jur Bernd Atenstaedt, Deputy Director General of the German British Chamber of industry and commerce, at the time.

The events alluded to, at the beginning of this Blog, were during the five years I spent setting up a Technology Diversification Centre, to bring high technology business, largely involving advanced materials, to the region, which was wrecked by certain events within, actions by, a Local Authority, among others. That is described in, for example, the “Engineering Background” page of my business oriented web site and happened after 1994 and so does not appear in the book.

I, originally, approached Arima Publishing at the suggestion of Caroline Collingsof Stafford Rhodes, Portsmouth, who, for various reasons, thought they would be suitable publishers. It was just after that and agreement from Arima to proceed, that the delays set in. Those “hang-ups” and delays will be explained elsewhere and in any sequel(s) to “Remembering Lorelei”.

The content of  “Remembering Lorelei” is so unusual, that someone I met during the Mystics and Scientists Conference at the University of Winchester in 2012, rated the likely non-book income very high. He is heavily involved with the media, mostly from the film point of view, said most of my income would come as a result of the story being the public domain and that it could even be justified to give the books away to achieve that, or at least not bother too much about the income from them. On the other hand, that income would be useful for ploughing back into marketing the story, as well as for a few other things.

Having returned to the manuscript to finish it, that summer, progress, over the succeeding months, was not as fast as it might have been, though going reasonably well.

The following year at the Mystics and Scientists Conferenceat the University of Warwick in 2013 I was involved in a conversation with Ruth Padel. As I described in the earlier Blog, I responded to Ruth asking what the book was about by explaining that I had a discarnate Soulmate who was a legend in a previous lifetime, adding that, at that time, a few hundred years ago, I was Kurt Langerhan, a huntsman in Germany, and Ruth’s reaction was, “Wow, a very powerful book.” Obviously, I was delighted by such a comment from an author and academic of Ruth’s standing, her relationship to Charles Darwin being an unusual added bonus, in a way.

Little more than a couple of months after that conference, I had a telephone call completely “out of the blue” from a stranger, who urged me to finish “Remembering Lorelei” and quickly, encouraging me, mainly by means of E-mails, to do so. The first contact was the telephone call towards the end of July when the revision of the manuscript was already progressing and material connected with my engineering career was brought back in, several thousand worlds of it, as the highly unusual events in and around those, especially following, did not make sense without it. However, the intervention of the stranger and constant encouragement, ensured that it was completed a little over three months after that first ‘phone call. I thought I would only need to re-write part of the original proposal that I had sent to Arima in the early days but it ended up as an extensive rewrite of eight thousand words. That was completed in a couple of weeks and sent, along with the Preface, Introduction and initial Chapters, to Richard Franklin at Arima in October 2013, together with the hope that, as he had said in our earlier telephone conversation, in September, that Arima would also honour the September offer for new authors, not absolutely necessary, just very helpful

Oddly, during the latter part of 2013, several things seem to fall into place, at the rate of one every two, to three weeks, which added to the disappointment of lack of movement on the publishing front. To that was added the success that Loykey and Lillibit were having with their books and learning that Monty B had been given a contract by Barbarossa Books to write more.

Those developments extended to the point of me seriously considering writing a sequel, to “Remembering Lorelei”, or even sequels, depending on the volume of material in my diaries and other places, in other words from 1994 onwards. That was particularly the case when, while clearing out some old paperwork, I came across even more than I had already put aside regarding events in the latter half of the 1990s, additional to that which is electronically stored and in various locations.

Soon afterwards I took Noel Bingham’s original paintings to Staples, in Portsmouth, for them to go on an A3 scanner. Noel had painted a scene of the Rhine for me as a book cover but I could not see how the titling would fit on it. He painted a second scene, that of the countryside, apparently North American, I had seen, during the guided meditation, just before Lorelei appeared at the Healing Arts Exhibition. Noel had found my description of the scene so vivid that he felt he had to paint it. The layout of that scene does happen to fit well with titling on a book cover.

Noel Bingham’s contribution is also a significant bonus as a professional in the publishing field confirmed that original artwork for a book was a considerable selling point, along with me already getting the impression that such matters were not common, and, presumably, meaning an original painting as opposed to a simpler form of cover design. There is an unusual feature about Noel’s painting which will not be obvious to most but may be apparent, at least eventually, to those with higher level senses and understanding, those not being matters which caused him any problems.

As I wrote above, I am still not sure when “Remembering Lorelei” will actually be available. There was a time when I thought it would be out by Christmas 2013, albeit only just. I had even spoken to the manager of the Tesco store in Havant about a book signing there, getting the response that, if Tesco sold it, including online, that was a distinct possibility. The quickest route to publication would still be via Arima as they have, the files to make a decision, or at least I believe they have, unless the said files have been lost in the “electronic ether”, which, I suppose, is always possible. If that is the case, “Remembering Lorelei” will be available in a couple of months, three at the most, say June, or July 2013, otherwise it will not be available for three to six months, though, hopefully, will at least be out by Christmas 2014.

There are other options, apart from Arima, obviously, but one I have spoken to wants to do all the artwork, setting up, everything, effectively, whereas I have already spoken to and visited Colin Woodman of Woodman Design, in Angmering, West Sussex, about one hour’s drive from where I live, in Havant. When we met, Colin came over as friendly, helpful and very capable to the extent that he could set up the complete book, including the cover artwork. We decided on a book size and paper colour which did not seem to be within Arima’s range of available combinations but, on checking with Arima, they seem to be more flexible than their website indicates, to the extent that Colin could set up a complete PDF file, to be sent to Arima and printed in, within reason, more or less, whatever form we preferred; hence the disappointment that there seems to be some confusion over files, their location (?), decision as to whether it first with Arima’s portfolio, etc, though Arima, as already noted, agreed to publish the book before and there are a number of other books of the same genre in the Arima catalogue.

Another option did not get the best of write-ups online, at least from a couple of sources, but they do have a significant presence in the publishing field of interest. I only need someone to print the books as and when required, which, given the stir on the Internet and elsewhere that the Lorelei Legend connection is likely to cause, should be a reasonable number, probably to put it mildly.

As noted above, Loykey and Lillibit sold quite a large number of their books, in excess of six thousand, without going through Amazon. Arima say they will pay £3-30 per book in royalties, if sold through them, 20% less if sold through a third party, like Amazon, which comes out at £2-63 per book. Even on a basis of £2-50 per book and the aforementioned sales rate, that works out at £15,000 per year. The non-book income should be considerably more, given the views of a number of high level business people along with those involved in film and printed media, who I met. I have spoken to several people at local business events about potential links for mutual benefit but there is nothing I can do until the story of Lorelei and I is in the public domain.

Hopefully, “Remembering Lorelei” would do even better than suggested above. I am not too bothered by which route it goes public, as long as it does, preferably sooner rather than later.


Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and Southern Entrepreneurs

I asked  Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and Southern Entrepreneursfor assistance. I heard nothing from Southern Entrepreneurs, not even an acknowledgement of my E-mail, even though they have taken over from Business Link Hampshire, which was somewhere between singularly useless and completely negative. Hampshire Chamber of Commerce did respond, in due course, and I have begun to receive help, though, to be fair, both the Chamber and Southern Entrepreneurs will come more into their own once the book is published, given the boost it will be for tourism in the region.

Amusingly, ironically (?), during August 2013, I received a telephone call from Lucy Lomax who was enquiring, on behalf of Southern Entrepreneurs, if I was satisfied with the help available, questions about the general performance, of the organisation. As I have been in a sort of hiatus for a while, I have not been in a position to make more use of the services Southern Entrepreneurs offers, or Hampshire Chamber. However, I did learn from that conversation that, following the demise of the Business Links, Southern Entrepreneurs was receiving the funding from local councils that would have gone to Business Link Hampshire.

Towards the end of our conversation, Lucy asked if my local council provided much support for business, in my case that is Havant BoroughCouncil, who are noteworthy for not being very good, generally. I said that I doubted Havant Council would help me promote “Remembering Lorelei”, even though it would help local tourism a great deal, but, regardless of that, I fully intended to ask Havant Council for assistance and publish the E-mail requests on the Internet. Lucy commented favourably on that, her words being, as I recall, “What a good idea.”

Now all that remains is to secure a route to publication for “Remembering Lorelei”.



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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Assessing Reliability of Knowledge and Experience: “The Three Whys”



A common problem in all walks of life is determining the value and dependability of information as well as that of its source. Sometimes that is sought and sometimes offered. These days, especially with the advent of the Internet, it is thrown at us by some people, almost on an attempted force feeding basis, though that, immediately, tends to mitigate against its usefulness and reliability, similarly with the person, or person promoting it.


The Three Whys

Early in my engineering career I learned of a useful way of assessing the reliability of information put forward by someone else, whether they have been asked for, or offered, it, without having to have as much knowledge as the person themselves. The exact origin of the approach is partially “lost in the mists of time”, though I am virtually certain it arose during my years at British Aerospace, through the 1970s and into the early 1980s, and that it derived in large part from a good friend of that era, W.J. (Walter John) “Dickie” Bird, a very unusual and inventive character who worked in the Project Office.

The approach is founded, to a large extent, on the basic principle that, a person who really understands their subject and is endowed with even just a reasonable amount of professionalism, basic civility, will be able to explain themselves, their specialist subject, or any other subject of which they claim to have knowledge and experience, in a straightforward, reasonable and civilised manner without any overt emotion, histrionics, or abuse. “The Three Whys” approach adds just a little more formality as well as being structured.

The basic principle is simple and is as follows. When someone puts forward an opinion on a particular matter, whether sought, or, simply, offered, consider what has been said and, on the basis of what you have been told, ask as in depth a question as you are able, endeavouring to take them “a level deeper”. On the basis of the answer you are given, ask a further question to take the matter another level deeper. Reflect on that answer and, with a third question, endeavour to take them deeper still,.

All of the questions you ask, should, of course, be put in a gently probing, considered and civilised manner, and the answers you receive should also be considered and civilised.

It is a basic convention of discourse that discussion, exchange of views, is carried out in a polite, mature manner and that when someone becomes abusive they forfeit the argument. Applying that to the previously described questioning process, if the person responding to calmly posed questions responds in a similar manner, he/she is likely to know the subject in question to a useful, even reliable, depth. Even if you do not fully understand the answers, particularly the third one, as long as the response is in a measured, calm, reasonably detailed manner, it is likely that they really do know what they are talking about, even if you do not follow it fully, or at all. However, if at any time there is any evasion, or abuse, it is likely that the person’s opinions can be, safely, ignored, quite apart from them having demonstrated a lack of professionalism which would rule out any involvement for them in any enterprise related to the subject matter.

Unfortunately, there are people who are abusive even before being asked a question on their subject, or any other. It is quite reasonable to ignore, even dismiss, the views of such persons, perhaps in their entirety, though at least to the extent of not bothering to take matters any further with them. Even if there just might seem to be something worth while in what they have to say, it is rarely worth pursuing when exchange of views becomes hostile; far better to seek out those of a more civilised and worthwhile disposition. Among those people are high level academics, who, one would have thought, would be more likely to take a professional approach. One such person seems to know his subject area but not a great deal beyond it though seems to think he does. Another professes knowledge, quite literally but is unwilling, or unable, to answer questions on his own subject, as well as displaying an unpleasant manner, at least to anyone who does not agree with his outlook. Rather than bother which such people simply go elsewhere; there are plenty of other people with as much knowledge and experience, likely more, of a pleasanter disposition and, therefore, far more likely to engage with people on a mutually productive basis.

As far as my own profession of engineering is concerned, there is a tendency towards conservative views, in the non-political sense, of course, so histrionics in debate, discussion, from an engineer is very rare and the sign of a not very good engineer. In recent years I have come across the apparent practice of intense and heated debate among scientists, at least those people of a pure science, classical science disposition, rather than the applied sciences and engineering sciences. If that is there way, fine, though it seems to belong more to, as well as being more suited to, the laboratory and academia. The engineering world is more a place for civilised informed discussion and debate rather than arrogant histrionics, hot headed decisions and similar. Much the same goes for the medical world, though one would be forgiven for not thinking so, given the opinions freely given on the Internet, frequently unsolicited, by, for the most part, people who have no relevant knowledge, qualifications, or experience, as well as it being done so rather forcefully, to put it mildly, as well as extremely rudely, also to put it mildly. Needless to say, by far the greater majority of such views are worthless and if there is any suspected worth in such views it would be far better to go elsewhere and find someone of a more civilised disposition to explain further, even more so if specific advice is desired, or required.


Related Thoughts

In engineering there is a willingness to take risks, though, mostly, only in terms of small steps and the situation being retrievable, if something goes wrong. That is combined with welcoming new ideas and approaches, subject to careful evaluation. That evaluation is from an engineering perspective, which includes science but is certainly not limited to science, or by it, no competent engineer would be. A great deal of knowledge and experience is required, along with knowing one’s own limitations in that sense. However, some knowledge of many subjects is also part of the profession, which provides a good basis for assessing the reliability of other sources of information and expertise; knowing and being aware enough to be able to ask questions of sufficient import to judge the quality and value of the information received, as well as the person, or person, imparting it; hence the approach outlined above. A competent engineer will be well aware of that and will engage with others in an appropriate manner. Should someone claim to be an engineer and not take a reasoned and civilised approach, go elsewhere; such people are distinct outliers, in the minority, close to the vanishing minority level, in my experience. If in any doubt, go to a professional institution, their claimed Institution, if they have one, for advice. Note that by “engineer” I mean in the professional sense, someone who is registered with the Engineering Council as a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng), Engineering Technician (EngTech), in the U.K., and the equivalent in Europe (EurIng), the United States, Canada, etc., rather than in the colloquial sense, especially the more general U.K. sense and similar.

On a final note, I am willing to give views beyond my areas of knowledge and experience, at least in those in which I have taken an interest over the years and with which I have at least some knowledge, or familiarity. However, I tend to make clear my limitations in such areas, at least where practicable; certain interactive systems, such as Twitter, for example, are not exactly geared to detailed explanations and qualification. On the other hand, I am open about my professional background and other involvements, most of which can be found on the Internet, though my engineering interests, knowledge experience and involvements, outside engineering, are such that a number of mainstreamers are unable to engage about them in a mature manner, though my experiences, in that sense, are rather similar to those of many other people. The sort of approach I take as a guide when going outside my own fields of expertise and knowledge is that of Irwin Schrödinger, about which I write in “Science Knowledge and Noblesse Oblige”. Obviously, I do not claim to be at Irwin Schrödinger’s level, though he is a much better role model than  many scientists, let alone of those who can only claim to be “of science”, though do not seem to be as knowledgeable of it as they suppose, or even very good at it.



Comments Moderation:

Comments will only be accepted if they are presented as a contribution to mature discussion and are from people who use their own names with a link whereby that is easily verified, as well as, ideally, their background, qualifications, experience, etc., essentially, total clarity for all readers of a comment as to precisely who is making it.

No comments will be accepted that contain libellous comments, or those of an abusive nature, or are “off topic”, at least seriously so. Constructive criticism is one thing, juvenile name calling and similar is quite another.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mystics and Scientists Conference, University of Warwick, 12th-14th April 2013, The Nature of Inspiration in Art Science and Spirituality



The annual Mystics and Scientists Conference organised by the Scientific and Medical Network had moved to the University of Warwick, from the University of Winchester, involving a somewhat longer journey from Havant, than usual. Apart from a slight problem with the car on the way, it worked out quite well in the end. The most interesting part was on the Saturday when my book “RememberingLorelei” came into a conversation with Ruth Padel, a well respected author and poet.

The Friday evening was taken up with the usual welcome from Professor Bernard Carr, Chair of the Scientific and medical network and Dr Peter Fenwick, the President, followed by a presentation by David Lorimer on “The Act of creation”, which included reference to his architect grandfather, Sir Robert Lorimer.

The Saturday morning session consisted of presentations by Prof Robert Turner on “Creativity and the Brain” followed by Prof Lord Richard Harries on “Inspiration and the Challenge of Modern Art to Religious Imagery”. Bob Turner talked about research he had been engaged in at his present appointment as Director of the Neurophysics Department at the Max PlanckInstitute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. The Institute is in Leipzig and, as I found, recently, when I checked my website statistics, I am still getting an inordinate number of hits from the University of Leipzig, which I long ago put down to the connections between Lorelei, the Rhine and Richard Wagner as Wagner was an alumnus of the University of Leipzig.

The most interesting development was in the afternoon when we had a choice between a drumming session with Nihat Toslak  “Sufi Drum Circle: Connecting to the Heart through Rhythm, Movement and Chanting” and poetry from Ruth Padel, great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin. Over the years I have experienced the interesting effects of both drumming and chanting, though not through the Sufi tradition, about which I have read and which I respect, so I kept with the poetry reading, apart from which that was in the lecture theatre and I did not need to find the other location on an unfamiliar university campus. Not being good at concentrating for long periods, at times, these days, I missed occasional passages of Ruth’s poetry. So, after the readings, I asked Ruth if she had any readings on the Internet and she said she had, in various places, some as podcasts. She suggested that I go to her website. I said that I had already come across it while using the web to double check on the conference and its venue.

I said that I wondered if she might be giving too much away if she put her poetry on the Web but then said that I was getting round to putting sample text from my book on the Web anyway.

At that point Ruth asked about my book, so I took the file out of my bag with the first four chapters in, brought with me to begin the final reread and showed her the first page of Chapter 1, “Soulmate”, with the book title, “Remembering Lorelei” at the head of the page.

I explained that I had a discarnate Soulmate who was a legend in a previous lifetime, adding that, at that time, a few hundred years ago, I was Kurt Langerhan, a huntsman in Germany. Ruth’s reaction was,
“Wow, a very powerful book.”
That took me a little by surprise but pleasantly, of course. Presumably, the implication that my Lorelei was, seemed to be, the actual Lorelei was contributory to Ruth’s thoughts about my book, reaction to it. I added that my present wife, Jo,is Lorelei’s Soul Sister and another member of the family was Lorelei’s Soul Daughter, though it is not appropriate, at this stage, to put exactly who that is in writing. That extra information did not seem to detract from Ruth’s “powerful book” feeling, comment, more add to it as she expressed much the same sentiment again. On reflection that seemed reasonable as, even though I know the genre quite well, I have never heard of a book even remotely like mine.

During the ensuing tea break I bought a couple of Ruth’s books from the Warwick University Bookshop, “Darwin, a Life in Poems” and “The Mara Crossing”. Of course, I asked Ruth if she would sign both books when we returned to the lecture theatre for her presentation, “Inside and Outside: Breath Ear and Eye”.

I sat next to Beata Bishop for most of the Conference and what had transpired during my conversation with Ruth came up during one with Beata, who seemed to think it as encouraging as I did. I had seen Beata at most, if not all, of the conferences I had attended and remembered her making giving a presentation at ones of the earlier ones to which I had been.

Ruth’s presentation was quite impressive and certainly very interesting. On the other hand, the film by Jonathan Stedall, “Fools and Fallen Angels with Cecil Collins” was a little quaint, though, until I looked up Cecil Collins on the Internet, after I had returned home, I did not realise how old it was; Cecil Collins had passed over in 1989.

On the Sunday, the final day of the conference, the first presentation was by Shakti Maira, “Inspiration In Art: Unfolding Connecting and Forming” and the second by Prof Paul Robertson Grace and Effort: Sources of Inspiration Reconciled in Musical Experience”. Paul’s contribution I found both fascinating and inspiring, especially as he was a very accomplished musician and had experienced very serious illness. That had left him extremely insightful, though he seemed to have had a considerable degree of that before his illness. There was the added treat of a recital on a solo violin, with him sitting only a few feet from where I was and, at least in part, no intervening electronics. There was a microphone but I felt I was picking up the sound directly, to a large extent, as I was so close.

Those weekends are soon over but fascinating while they last. Invariably they leave something useful and that one was the encouragement to finalise the manuscript of “Remembering Lorelei” which at long last I have brought to the final reread stage.


Comments Moderation:

Comments will only be accepted if they are presented as a contribution to mature discussion and are from people who use their own names with a link whereby that is easily verified, as well as, ideally, their background, qualifications, experience, etc., essentially, total clarity for all readers of a comment as to precisely who is making it.

No comments will be accepted that contain libellous comments, or those of an abusive nature, or are “off topic”, at least seriously so. Constructive criticism is one thing, juvenile name calling and similar, which are, unfortunately, common among those of an atheistic, materialistic, scientistic disposition, is quite another. Comments published at my absolute discretion.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Doctors Don’t Tell You, Views on the Magazine



I first came across a printed edition “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” magazine in Waitrose, Havant, a few months ago, and bought a copy out of interest. I was already aware of the website of the same name and Lynne McTaggart, who is behind the magazine.

I found the content rather mixed, though I only read a small part of the content at the time. It was not long after afterwards that, via Twitter and the Web in general, I came across a campaign against the magazine by the usual collective of mainstream science know-alls with much of the comment the usual invective and generally immature approach rather than the calm, emotion free reasoning ideal of science itself.

To a large extent the level and tone of the articles in “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” are fairly similar to the health pages of a tabloid newspaper. However, the mainstreamers and self–styled skeptics are hardly likely to take on large publications like national newspapers and their distributors, a lone magazine is a much easier proposition, albeit one published by a significant company in the magazine sector. They are, by method of action and temperament, bullies and the well known flipside of the bully is the coward. Many of their number hide behind pseudonyms, not exactly the stance of the brave, quite apart from preventing their readers and others assessing their views on the basis of their knowledge, experience and qualifications.

The articles are a mixture of subjects in a populist style, as would be expected of a magazine of this type. An avowed aim of the magazine, going by the article on page 7, and the approach in general, it seems, is “Putting a human face on medicine”. In many ways I can see their point as, for rather too many people, medicine is a somewhat high level field made even more “alien” by those who tend to try to cloak it in science, or say that it is science. Science, in itself, is a very simple and basic process, though some would prefer to put it above “ordinary” people.

The article by Robert Verkerk, “A Divided Europe on Frankenstein food”, on page 16, is not a title I would have chosen, though, I suppose, it comes down to the populist level at which the magazine seems to be aimed. I am not fond of genetically modified materials, in large part because of the way such technologies are approached, which tends to be from the science point of view rather than the technology one. Scientists often seem to get above themselves and take a mainstream science view rather than one closer to the general populace and, or, a technological one. In engineering we progress by small steps with a route for retreat, as far as possible, but that does not appear to be the case with genetically modified organisms, GMOs. There is also a tendency in engineering to prove safety, as far as possible, before giving something clearance, whereas with GMOs, the testing seems to be somewhat limited and an assumption of safety unless proven harmful, a reversal of the usual engineering process. Scientists are not, necessarily, the best people to assess safety, especially where technology is involved.

Another article “Dollars and stents”, on pages 20-22, might have been a revelation, or something to doubt, but concurred with articles I had read on the web a few days previously. Those were concerned with the insertion of stents in patients when they were not always necessary and, in several, many (?), cases totally unnecessary and put the recipient’s health, even life, at risk. The motive was simply profit, which is a major driver in the health system of the U.S.A.

The “Special Report” article, “The Selling of Gardasil”, by Lynne McTaggart, pages 26-35, covers the introduction and use of a cervical cancer vaccine that seems to be widely used in the U.S.A. and is about to make it’s way to the U.K. How many of the listed “facts” are actual facts I do not know; facts are often in the eye and mind of the beholder, as are many other things. There is also a list of apparent, claimed, “victims” of the vaccine, including fatalities. What is not disputable is that all vaccines, as with any other medical treatment, contain risk and it is right that such risks be discussed openly. The article is written in a lighter, more populist way than a medical journal, or similar is likely to be but that would have been simply, logically, a matter of bearing in mind the target audience. There is a list of references with, apparently, enough information to find them on the Web, though I would have preferred more detail in the way they are presented than the minimalistic approach of a small striped box in the bottom right hand corner of the final page.

Part of the “Prevention” section of the magazine is devoted to Tai Chi; “Slowly, slowly” by Joanna Evans. My experience of Tai Chi is limited, mostly to an experience session we had as a group with Judy, a healer colleague, several years ago and we could all feel the effects, though, equally, all of us had been well used to sensing beyond the physical for many years anyway; it was our normality.

Joanna writes, “And that’s the problem. Implausible as it may seem to doctors, there’s a stack of evidence of the many benefits you can get by introducing this simple and gentle exercise into your daily regime.” I am as sure as I can be that is true. I did not keep up the yoga and mediation I practised while at Brunel University in the late 1960s and early 1970s,

Under “Sleep and depression” Joanna writes, of Tai Chi, “It’s even more effective than drugs, as one study demonstrated.” I might have modified that to “appeared to demonstrate” as it was a single study, or even if it wasn’t, though I suspect some, such as the materialistic, scientistic types, will interpret “demonstrated” as “proved”, though they are often not very good with words anyway. Either way, I invariably sleep better after mediation, healing and so on, as I know to be the case with many other peopleso am I not surprised that other approaches at that level are reported as having similar effects.

I am well aware that there is more to each of us than just the physical body, so attending to the non-physical component in a positive way can hardly be anything other than beneficial.

As far as those who cannot accept such matters are concerned, they can go there own way, though they tend not to afford the same to people of different persuasion, or knowledge, to them.

This article also contains a list of references, further reading, though again, I would prefer that they were more clearly set out.

The article on pages 48-51, by Nessa Oden, “How I avoided a hysterectomy with diet”, describes how “she healed herself through an elimination diet, plus supplements and herbs”. To some extent it reminded me of a story I read years ago, which, as I recall, was about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer, I believe in the abdomen area, it was, more or less, incurable but she did cure it by the unusual method of eating not just grapes but the stalks as well, rather a lot of them, and her problems, eventually ceased.

Nessa describes her journey from the diagnoses of the early stages of cancer to an apparent complete cure by dietary means. I was impressed by her determination to do something for herself rather than just “hand her body over” to other people and it appears to have worked very well.

Nessa makes a valid and obvious, though often overlooked, point in the sidebar of the final page “But everyone is unique”. However many experiments, tests are carried out on particular treatments, “cures” the results obtained are not necessarily applicable to any given individual. Nessa’s approach in developing a serious personal involvement in her own problem and making her own judgements about advice given is a valid one.

My interest in the subject derives, primarily, from Jo, my wife, needing to have a hysterectomy in the mid 1990s. Those events were non-mainstream in their own way, at least in part. Being a healer I spent the relevant afternoon with Jo in my own way, though, physically, she was in St Mary’s Hospital, Portsmouth, and I was at home in Havant. I saw someone with Jo, who I had not thought to ask for assistance, her “Sister” in a sense and also the subject of my forthcoming and much delayed book. I may write those events up somewhere at some stage, though they will be beyond the comprehension of mainstream types anyway. Suffice to say that the timings of events from my point of view matched those from Jo’s, when we discussed it later as well as what was done being sufficiently effective for Jo to be up and showering herself less than forty-eight hours after the operation, as well as back home, walking upstairs and bathing herself ninety-six hours afterwards the operation.

Dr Patrick Kingsley, one of the members of the advisory board for the magazine, has an article on page 67 “Discovering the real causes of asthma”. He describes his experiences with “Sarah”, an asthma sufferer, by way of illustrating his approach and his belief that there is rather more to the causes of asthma than hereditary ones.

The narrative of Dr Kingsley’s experiences with treating Sarah indicate a considerable degree of success, including when Sarah had a recurrence of her asthma problem, apparently brought on by using talcum powder with her new baby. Of course that is a single case but illustrates what can be achieved with a flexible approach combining practical knowledge and experience with theoretical and scientific knowledge, rather than being tied to, or heavily biased towards, any one of them.

Towards the end Patrick writes, “The key to a correct diagnosis with New Medicine is to pinpoint any influences besides diet, such as environmental or emotional ones, that may be having an effect on a patient.” Perhaps a more appropriate term, albeit more unwieldy, would be “Rediscovered Medicine”, or “Original Medicine”, as there were those who knew it all along anyway.

Mainstream medicine, that espoused by materialistic, scientistic members of the medical profession and numerous non-medical members of the mainstream science community seems to have a heavy theoretical and laboratory type bias rather than a practical and person, patient, bias. It also has a number of hangers-on and people strangely able outside their specialisation, such as physicists who appear to have a wealth of “knowledgeable” of medicine but no demonstrable experience, plus anonymous people with no visible knowledge, or experience, at all.

The rest of the magazine is, generally, at a similar level. The content and reliability of information is somewhat mixed, as previously mentioned at abut the usual newspaper health page level though “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” at least attempts to provide references, which the health pages rarely do. The magazine has been categorised as dangerous by some people. Many without any specialist knowledge in health matters, though that seems to be the way of things these days.

“What Doctors Don’t Tell You” is not a definitive guide to better ways to health and I doubt that it was ever meant to be. It is more of a discussive publication that is willing to embrace approaches outside the mainstream. The magazine does not and will not get everything right and is unlikely to do so but then neither does mainstream medicine, let alone its unqualified hangers on who tend to be rather vocal. On the other hand, despite the inevitable carping from the usual suspects in the mainstream science know-it-all camp, “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” has a substantial and well qualified Advisory Board.

There are those who have claimed that articles in “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” interpret some of the references given in a different way to the authors of those references. The irony is that such critics tend to be those of a turn of mind that they are right and all definitions, evidence, reasoning that follow need to conform to that and are also guilty of placing their own interpretations on the works of others.

I would advise readers to take note of criticism of “What Doctors Don’t Tell You”, as well as any other publications, articles, etc., from those with medical qualifications and/or experience, weighting their views based on those, as well as any lack of either in specific fields. As far as criticism from non-medical people are concerned, it would be wise to not take what is said, or written, too seriously, if at all, unless they have specialist knowledge and experience in a particular area, though the more vociferous are just the opposite, having little, if any, relevant knowledge, or experience.

There are complications in that there are differing opinions, often considerably so, though that can happen in other professions as well. Also, there is tends to be a mechanistic bias in medicine, which presents problems because there is more to the human being than the purely mechanical and it may well be better to seek advice from those with a more open frame of mind as well as broader experience.

A fairly prominent anachronism is a professor of complementary and alternative medicine unable to stretch from his mainstream background to understand what lies behind the non-mechanistic approach and, therefore, professes to have significant knowledge and understating of that which he has limited knowledge and understanding, probably about the only professor in such a quaint position.

As with many situations, the more stridently and unpleasantly someone expresses their view, the less likely it is that they are speaking with any real knowledge or authority and are best ignored.

In any event, before involving oneself in any particular treatments, or course of action, it is, clearly, best to avail oneself of as much knowledge as possible and fully assess those whom you consult and from whom you are considering accepting advice and treatment. Additionally, it would probably be best to consult those with a broad and flexible attitude rather those with limited knowledge and a rigid outlook.

Virtually everything in which we engage involves risk and balance of risk. Health issues are no different and it is the recipient of the treatment who should make the decisions on their treatment, without pressure, or harassment from anyone else.


Comments Moderation:

Comments will only be accepted if they are presented as a contribution to mature discussion and are from people who use their own names with a link whereby that is easily verified, as well as, ideally, their background, qualifications, experience, etc., essentially, total clarity for all readers of a comment as to precisely who is making it.

No comments will be accepted that contain libellous comments, or those of an abusive nature, or are “off topic”, at least seriously so. Constructive criticism is one thing, juvenile name calling and similar, which are, unfortunately, common among those of an atheistic, materialistic, scientistic disposition, is quite another. Comments published at my absolute discretion.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Edzard Ernst and Herbal Remedies

In today’s Independent there is an opinion piece by Edzard Ernst, on the need for less opinion, at least as far as herbal remedies are concerned, specifically “Edzard Ernst: We need less opinion and more scientific research” on Thursday, 30 December 2010 (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/edzard-ernst-we-need-less-opinion-and-more-scientific-research-2171782.html).

Having read a great deal of Ernst’s work and writings, I came to the conclusion, some time ago, that in much of his field of supposed expertise, he is, more or less, completely clueless.

The comment I contributed to the discussion in the Independent is as follows:

Edzard Ernst is, regularly, ready to give his opinion, sometimes based on “science” from his point of view, even though much of that science is seriously flawed.

The description of my own Healing modality in “Trick or Treatment?”, the book he wrote with Simon Singh, contains double figures of errors on a single page. When I questioned Edzard Ernst about such matters on his own Blog on the “Pulse” website, he, essentially, ran away. As a so-called Professor of Complementary Medicine who professes to know about my modality, has supposedly researched it and pontificates on it, he turns and runs when asked questions by someone who knows the subject, has years of experience of it, plus half a century of involvement with science; a combination that is clearly too much for him.

I do not claim to know other parts of the CAM field in depth, unlike Edzard Ernst and the semi-instant expertise of Simon Singh who went from zero to an “expert” in about two years. In practice Singh has not a clue what he is talking about and Ernst is little better.

Unlike Ernst, Singh and many others, I do at least have an appreciation of the history, principles and thinking behind many CAM modalities as well as a strong science background. Applying science to them would be advantages in several ways. Unfortunately the science usually applied is often rubbish. Because he understands so little that even my non-scientific Healer colleagues could, immediately, see the flaws in his research. The supposed mechanism of placebo is related to the self healing abilities which are natural too us. Many non-mainstream methodologies, including spiritual healing, specifically encourage, apply, “set in motion” an individual’s self healing abilities. Hence, Edzard Ernst essentially proved that Spiritual Healing did not work because Spiritual Healing was not better than Spiritual Healing, or placebo did not work because placebo was not better than placebo. Ernst made the basic error of assuming that the procedure he chose to act as a placebo really was a placebo.

From what I have read of Ernst’s work, which is fairly extensive, I doubt that his expertise is much better in other areas, including that of herbal medicine.

How many other professors are utterly clueless about a significant subject in the field they claim to profess, particularly one on which they have pontificated and given strong opinions?

There are many fields of endeavour that depend heavily on experience, both on a personal basis and the “handed down” variety. That is certainly true of my own profession of engineering, which is less than 20% science in content. If we applied the evidence based approach in purely the science sense, as opposed to the generality of evidence, the world as we know it would not exist. There many are areas of engineering where “evidence based” in either the straight scientific sense, or “randomly controlled trial” sense is impractical, ridiculously expensive, or simply not there, not available, unattainable. That is the difference between living in the real world and inhabiting the amateurish theoretical scientific world of Edzard Ernst and his acolytes.

Similarly, there are many other matters in which handed down experience, group and/or society experience is valuable, including herbal traditions.

Besides, how come that from a health point of view, herbal remedies are to be considered not safe unless proven to be safe, whereas mobile ‘phones and similar are to be considered safe unless proven unsafe? Such inversions of the proof of safety are very common in our society and seem to have a strong correlation with vested interests.

Monday, November 29, 2010

An Engineer and a soar point with Pterosaurs

Colin Palmer, an engineer engaged in research on the aerodynamics of pterosaurs at the University of Bristol, has shown that the creatures were predominantly adapted to slow speed flight; too slow and flexible to use, or survive in, the stormy winds of some oceans, such as the albatross does in the southern oceans

Pterosaur wings had variable geometry and that, combined with their slow flight enabled them to land very gently, reducing the chance of damage to their thin bones. This goes a long way to explaining how pterosaurs became the largest flying creatures ever known, with a wingspan up to 10m across.

Colin Palmer said: “Pterosaur wings were adapted to a low-speed flight regime that minimizes sink rate. This regime is unsuited to marine style dynamic soaring adopted by many seabirds which requires high flight speed coupled with high aerodynamic efficiency, but is well suited to thermal/slope soaring. The low sink rate would have allowed pterosaurs to use the relatively weak thermal lift found over the sea.


“Since the bones of pterosaurs were thin-walled and thus highly susceptible to impact damage, the low-speed landing capability would have made an important contribution to avoiding injury and so helped to enable pterosaurs to attain much larger sizes than extant birds. The trade-off would have been an extreme vulnerability to strong winds and turbulence, both in flight and on the ground, like that experienced by modern-day paragliders.”

Palmer constructed models of pterosaur wing sections from thin curved sheets of epoxy resin/ carbon fibre composite, those sections then being tested in a wind tunnel. From those test the two dimensional characteristics of pterosaur wings were characterised fort he first time. This showed that the creatures were considerably less aerodynamically efficient and were capable of flying at lower speeds than previously thought.

Colin Palmer, trained as an engineer, originally in ship science and has over forty years of industrial experience. His interest in the propulsion of sailing vessels led to a study of the performance of thin aerofoil’s and low speed aerodynamics. He is now applying that knowledge and experience to the analysis of vertebrate flight, focusing on large pterosaurs for his PhD. His approach uses a combination of wind tunnel and vortex-lattice theoretical modeling to understand how pterosaur wings performed. More sophisticated aerodynamic analysis, using computational fluid dynamics, is to follow with the intention of providing enough information to create a free-flying model of a pterosaur.

The story reminds me of that of a particular type of dinosaur that was thought to live in marshes so that its body partially floated, due to its body structure, particularly its legs, being unable to bear its full weight. Sometime in the 1960s, or 1970s, an engineer carried out structural calculations to show that the creature’s skeletal structure was indeed capable of bearing its weight. Oddly, as I recall, the person concerned was an electrical engineer at the University of Reading. In a sense, not so odd as engineers have a good understanding of each other’s disciplines; my first year at Brunel University was a common one for all engineers; mechanical, electrical and production engineering. Either way both stories are a good example of why such matters should be investigated by other than just scientists.

Colin Palmer’s paper “Flight in slow motion: aerodynamics of the pterosaur wing” is in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B at rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/12/01/rspb.2009.1899.abstract.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stephen Hawking says universe not created by God

Stephen Hawking has, apparently, come to the conclusion that the universe had no creator, though that notion, is, of course, based on physics; “Stephen Hawking says universe not created by God”, The Guardian, 2nd September 2010 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/sep/02/stephen-hawking-big-bang-creator)

In his 1988 book “A Brief history of Time”, there was at least an indication that Hawking’s understanding might not be limited to just the physical, particularly when he wrote, “If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we should know the mind of God”

That Hawking’s understanding does not go beyond the physical is apparent from the article, as well as elsewhere. The Guardian article quotes Hawking as saying, "The fact that we human beings – who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature – have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is a great triumph."

Many of us are well aware that we are far more than “mere collections of fundamental particles of nature”, as is the rest of the physical universe for that matter; we are not limited to just our physical senses, which gives us a distinct advantage over almost all mainstream scientists, including Stephen Hawking.

As Hawking’s knowledge and understanding is limited to the physical, so must be his conclusions. Eminent though his work is, it is based on partial knowledge.

However, even with physical world limitations in understanding, there is still the matter of logic in that the so-called “laws” of physics are based on physical observation and have no particular bearing on what there was before the physical, putting aside the slight matter of time being as illusory as the physical world itself. Although the idea that the “Origin” of everything we know is all there is, time dose not exist and physical reality is complete illusion is difficult to grasp, it seems less so than the notion that the whole of the “real” physical universe suddenly appeared, totally spontaneously out of absolutely nothing. Once the knowledge and some experience of the vastness of creation, of which only the physical is a very small part, such understandings become easier to accept.

The other aspect is the matter of design. The title of Stephen Hawking's new book, co-written with Caltech Physicist Leonard Mlodinow, is “The Grand Design”.

Design is part of engineering, as is science, when the engineer deems science to be useful. Design is not science and is not a rational subject, it is art and irrational. Scientists may endeavour to investigate design, with their limited tools and limited understanding; they may have their own opinions on it. However, they do not, in general, have either the expertise, or qualifications, to pass any meaningful comment on design, other than from the very limited scientific perspective. Therefore, from the design point of view, the opinions of Stephen Hawking and his co-author are irrelevant, at a minimum mostly so.

These days it is not easy to find somewhere away from the light pollution of towns and cities to see a clear night sky. I remember a night, back in the 1960s, at a firework party on the beach at Holland-on-sea in Essex, adjacent to Clacton-on Sea where we lived. At one stage during the evening, I lay on the beach, below the cliff, looking out to sea, up at a clear, cloudless sky. Even what could be seen with just the naked eye more or less, screamed “Design?” In latter years I learned far more about design and began to see far more than the physical. Scientists in general, let alone physicists, often have no idea just how little they know, or, pursuing their current paths, will ever know.