Saturday, December 26, 2009

(259) Shoemakers impacts: craters on the Earth and the Moon and comets on Jupiter

In the earliest hours of Boxing Day 2009 I was looking up details of St. Crispin and his patronage of shoemakers.

I was moved to do so because of a lingering interest generated by my £250,000 question on Who Wants to be A Millionaire? some four years earlier (see Entry 224).

I then thought about looking up more details of the astronomer Shoemaker, after whom, I understood, the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 had been named.

I discovered facts about him that surprised me by their significances, not least in the context of the next question I was to face on the show; the one which stopped me -
(Which of these astronauts has never set foot on the moon?) - and also relating to Entry .

Eugene Merle Shoemaker (1928 – 1997) was best known as an astronomer.
But he began, I learned, as a geologist and studied the impact dynamics of Barringer Meteor Crater, Arizona for his Ph.D (1960).

In 1993, he, together with his wife Carolyn Shoemaker and David Levy, co-discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. This provided the unique opportunity to observe the planetary impact of a comet when it collided with Jupiter in 1994. It caused a massive "scar" on the face of Jupiter. Most scientists were dubious of whether there would even be any evident markings on the planet.

So -
a) Gene married Carolyn Spellman in 1951. A visit to Meteor Crater the following year set him toward the view that both it and lunar craters were due to asteroidal impacts. In 1956 he tried to interest the United States Geological Survey in the construction of a geological map of the moon. He then did seminal research on the mechanics of meteorite impacts, awarded a master's degree in 1954.
Shoemaker was the first to show that Barringer Crater was formed not by volcanic activity but by an extraterrestrial impact. Hence it is now Meteor Crater.
b) He studied the impact dynamics of Barringer Meteor Crater for his Ph.D in the year of my birth (1960).
He did more than any other person to advance the idea that sudden geologic changes can arise from asteroid strikes and that these are common over geologic time periods.
Previously, astroblemes were thought to be remnants of extinct volcanoes – even on the Moon.
c) He was a pioneer in astrogeology and prominently involved in the Lunar Ranger Moon missions,
which showed that the Moon is covered with impact craters of many sizes.
From an early age he was passionate about going to the moon and became a candidate for an Apollo moon flight. Set to be the first geologist to walk on the Moon, diagnosis of Addison's disease in 1963 prevented him.
d) "Which of these astronauts has never set foot on the moon?"
Shoemaker, an astronaut intended to set foot there, didn´t.
Walking on the moon requires careful preparation and equipment.
You may not do it barefoot.
He was involved in training astronauts, e.g. during field trips to Meteor Crater itself and at Sunset Crater, Arizona.
e) Shoemaker began as a terrestrial geologist, suggesting that craters were formed by meteorite impacts - a very innovative idea.

He then suggested that lunar craters were too.

When the USGS Center of Astrogeology was founded in Flagstaff in 1965, he was appointed its chief scientist and organized the geological activities planned for the lunar landings.

In 1969 he became interested in extending his geological knowledge of the formation and distribution of terrestrial and lunar impact craters to the study of the objects that formed them. His search resulted in the discovery of several such families, including the Apollo asteroids.
In 1983 the first of the record 32 comets associated with the Shoemaker name was discovered. By the time the program ended it had produced 40 of the--now--417 known Amor, Apollo and Aten asteroids (the orbits of this last group being smaller than that of the earth).
The Shoemakers ensured that Palomar is likely to remain the leading site for the discovery of asteroids, having found more than 13% of those numbered.
A few months before the Shoemaker program ended came its "defining moment", with Gene receiving the thrill of his lifetime when 20 components of one of his comets crashed into Jupiter with astounding results.

So he ended his scientific career searching for the extraterrestrial objects that caused craters.

Above all, he was truly the "father" of the science of near-earth objects, to the discovery and study of which The Spaceguard Foundation is dedicated.
He also spent his later years searching for meteor craters. During one such expedition he died in a car crash in Australia.
He was killed instantaneously by a violent impact when investigating the sites of violent impacts, a tragic irony that would not have been lost on his accompanying wife and co-explorer of the terrestrial and astronomical, Carolyn.
f) On July 31, 1999, some of his ashes were carried to the Moon by the Lunar Prospector space probe in a capsule.
Shoemaker's memorial capsule is inscribed with images of Comet Hale-Bopp, the Barringer Crater, and a quotation from Romeo and Juliet -
"And, when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun."

My wife helped me by phone to answer the Shoemakers question.

Shoemaker is the only person buried on the moon.
g) Although these insights came to me in the early hours of Boxing Day 2009, in Shoemaker´s homeland it would still have been Christmas Day.
... ... ...
To walk on the moon the first prerequisite, more important than health, piloting ability, intelligence or any other quality or attribute, is simply the demonstration that one really WANTS to walk there.

(As I changed the last two words of that sentence from "do it" to "walk there" at 3:48 P.M. on Jan 29th 2010 my wife called out to me to ask if I had seen what Catherine Warwick had just added at a Facebook thread that Fiona had started -

It was a link to this -

Underwater chess Curacao
Dutch chessmasters 'Hans Böhm' and 'Robin Swinkels' take up a chess match 4 meters below sealevel having stingrays and fish as their specta
Ayer a las 22:19

Fiona Pitt-kethley
Wonderful film. Made my day. My husband has met one of the guys
Ayer a las 22:26
Catherine Warwick
Great fun. Now all we need is chess on the MoonHace 37 minutos
... ... ...
And not just to ponder on it or gaze at it or dream about it or be hanger-on to a moonwalker.

(258) "origin of christmas for veni vidi vinci" and other ´incorrect´ Latin quotes

On the early evening of December 16th 2009 I checked the Statcounter statistics for this blog and saw that someone in Beirut had very recently accessed it by putting
the origin of christmas for veni vidi vinciinto a search engine.

Here are the hits thrown up by that implausible Lebanese search -;_ylt=A0geu_UjCSlLBmcBOctXNyoA?p=origin of christmas for veni vidi vinci&fr2=sb-bot&fr=ush-mailc

My blog is the first hit. I noted the fourth -

and browsed it briefly. I was surprised by how frequent a misquotation this seems to be, although I had noticed at least one other occasion when my blog had been thrown up by a similar search.

In Entry 44 here the misquoting is deliberate.

I left a comment about the misquote and pointed Karen Christensen to my blog.
About five hours later I turned to the Chessbase report by John Saunders on that day´s final round of the London Chess Classic tournament.

I noted in the second paragraph a different and new incorrect quoting of Caesar.
But then I saw that the coincidence is more specific still.

The opening paragraph is about the Norwegians´ annual gift of a Christmas tree to London as gratitude for British help during World War Two. (My father had served in "that fracas" as he put it in Norway in the early days of the war.)

This year the... tree was sent... but Norway also thoughtfully sent another present – not as tall but every bit as impressive to anyone who appreciates top-quality chess. 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen came, saw and conquered at the London Chess Classic and, in the process, launched himself to the top of the official world chess ratings. Nobody has ever achieved this at a younger age.

So, “Magnus venit, vidit, vicit” (I knew all that school Latin would come in handy one day)...

The Berkshire Blog´s misquote comes in an entry about the launch of the book
This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity
... our first book for teachers... This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity... by the brilliant and eloquent world historian, David Christian... covers not only the history of humanity but the origins of the universe and of life, the “big history” David is known for.

... I snagged the title... when David told me UCP had decided not to use the quotation...

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

[... from the final verse of the ‘Diamond Sutra’, c. fourth century CE, as translated by Kenneth Saunders, cited in Christmas Humphreys, ed., The Wisdom of Buddhism, London... "] I know I’m supposed to... in order to choose a book title, not simply fall in love with a line of poetry. But this one... sounds so much like Shakespeare... and... the author, suggested it... The book is a companion to the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History and... appears in it as an overview introduction...

... William H. McNeill, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, says about the book:

Julius Caesar famously summed up the surprises and confusion of ten years of war in Gaul with three Latin words: veni, vidi, vinci I came, I saw, I conquered... David Christian performs a similar feat by summing up the surprises and confusion of 250,000 years of human history in 56 pages... and improves on Caesar’s boast by showing how persistent collective learning expanded human skills, and enlarged our numbers, wealth, and power across the ages. What a quick, convenient, and persuasive way to begin to understand the confusing world in which we find ourselves! ...

: Posted under Publishing & media, World history.
Comments: 4

Pingback from Berkshire Blog by Karen Christensen » This Fleeting World is published
Time: 30 June 2007, 12:09

[...] I’m at the World History Association conference in Milwaukee and have the delightful experience of meeting some of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History authors and also being... with David Christian, author of our hot-off-the-press This Fleeting World: A Brief History of Humanity, and... Bob Bain and Lauren McArthur, who wrote the foreword. It’s... available... Monday... In the meantime, some background at a previous post. [...]

Comment from Marci Ziese
Time: 30 December 2007, 15:01

I noticed you did not cite a reference for the translation of the last four lines from the Diamond Sutra, quoted above. Do you know the source of this particular translation? I have seen other ones that are similar but not quite as poetic.

It would be a good idea in the future to give references.



Comment from Karen Christensen
: 2 January 2008, 7:36

It comes from the final verse of the ‘Diamond Sutra’, c. fourth century CE, as translated by Kenneth Saunders, cited in Christmas Humphreys, ed., The Wisdom of Buddhism, London: The Buddhist Society, 1987, p. 122.

Comment from James Plaskett
: 16 December 2009, 11:40

Veni, vidi, VICI, not vinci, Madame.
See my blog.

I note:-
a) My encountering the misquoting of Veni, vidi, vici twice within five hours.

b) That in each case it is associated with Christmas. In John Saunders´ Chessbase piece he chooses an intro about the Norwegian annual Christmas gift. Karen Christensen´s piece is
about a book by David Christian.
The book´s title is taken from a line from a c. fourth century CE work cited by Christmas Humphreys as editor of The Wisdom of Buddhism.

c) Both "misquotes" are in the context of a man conquering the world.

d) In the chess article, John Saunders firstly alters the Caesar quote in a way that I had not seen before and also, if you like, thereby ´mistranslates´ his own Latin quote.
The translation of the Diamond Sutra, as Marci Ziese adds, it is a different (and nicer) translation than any she has seen before. It was made by Kenneth Saunders.

John Saunders´ version of the famous Caesar quote is also unique, but- as he made clear in his comment here - it was (as I suspected it might be) deliberate!

But illustrations of what Peter Vaughan called the Synchronicity of Synchronicity or what Roderick Main termed Synchronicity´s self-referring tendency, i.e the tendency of coincidences to spawn coincidences are provided by subsequent e mails -

Yes, I meant "The great one [Magnus] came, saw and conquered". It is correctly rendered Latin... To say that I am somehow "misquoting" or "mistranslating" Caesar is to impute a level of ignorance on my part of quite staggering proportions. An addendum has... been put... on the ChessBase site just in case other people think I'm a total ignoramus. For the record, I achieved S-Level distinction in Latin, studied it at Cambridge and... taught it at a posh London prep school for a... while (... you may conclude that my reference to "school Latin" was a tad disingenuous). .*

P.S. * actually there IS a coincidence accruing from all this ... I was discussing your 'misquotation' allegation with my wife... Oddly enough, she does a Latin lesson herself every week... Just after our... chat, she needed to look at a website for the residential nursing home where her uncle is being cared for and found this...
... on the right hand side... you will find some testimonials... - in Latin! This is one of the funniest things I have ever seen on the web. What has happened is that the web programmer deputed to set up the page has used a standard template... which... often include Latin so that they can be assessed for suitability. Latin is used for random text. But the idiot... has simply forgotten to replace the Latin gibberish with meaningful text. As I said to the missus... "testimonials in Latin? Just how old are some of the patients?"

And the final (and minor) codicil stems from my reply to John -

... Studied it at Cambridge?...
I got an O Level with Grade B, I´ll have you know!
But the coincidence is still patent - strengthened in fact - and your Missus´ addendum does it no harm. Working on it (and what you commented on at the blog was hardly complete; a magnuS opus still very much under construction!).

When I published - d) In the chess article, John Saunders firstly misquotes Caesar in a way that I had not seen before and also, if you like, thereby mistranslates his own Latin quote. I was very much aware that it might have been deliberate on your part.
Hence the wording " ...if you like thereby mistranslates..."
At Entry 44 we encounter TWO deliberate alterations of Caesar´s famous quote.
The quoted Prof. at Christensen´s site would seem to have just got it wrong.You are now the third deliberate fiddler with the quote. Work still in progress...


His reply -

James ... go and stand in the corner, 'Owl of the Remove' Plaskett Minor - it is 'magnuM opus' - a third declension neuter noun, not second declension masculine. Hmm, perhaps I would have grown into the Mr Chips role after all...
Incidentally I don't believe Caesar had copyright on those three Latin verbs and, even if he did, it would have lapsed a couple of millennia ago. What I choose to do with them isn't 'mis-anything' - it's a play on words, jeux d'esprit or something of that ilk...

My final salvo -

Even I know it´s MagnuM opus.
That was MY deliberate error and play on Latin words.
(Noteworthy that it should have escaped YOU...
Think about it, Teacher...)

Your missus has a codicil re caring and incorrect Latin.
That coincidences so often tend to generate coincidences is, in the categorisation of Dr R. Main, "Synchronicity´s self-referring tendency" i.e. synchronicity is emphasising its essentially spiritual nature.

See... elements of this in Entries 253, 240 point (g), 235, point (e), 224 (linking with Entry 40), 218, 211, 204, 192, 189, 188, 187, 186, 172, 167, 164, 154, and 49.

But the instance of this that might seem most striking to you involves Hartston.
It involves THIRD generation coincidences and is in the
Part Two: The Narrative, Epilogues and Appendices
section, scanning points (45) - (51).

Dr I. Grattan-Guinness.also mentioned the category of ‘Second Order Coincidences’, i.e. those that lead to coincidences, claiming that when a coincidence leads on to another coincidence then it has become an object in its own right.


(257) Knight from g3 to h1

On the afternoon of October 31st 2009 I found myself making a comparison between the reaction of Raymond Keene to a knight manouevre executed by Aaron Nimzowitsch and inserting the odd, perhaps rare expression learnt in a foreign language into one´s attempts to converse in it.
The move N(g3)-h1 was eulogised by Keene in his 1973 biography of Nimzowitsch. He wrote that when he first saw the game in which this retreat was executed (the knight quickly re-emerged via f2 to play a key part in his victory) he was so impressed that he kept trying in his own games to create situations in which he too could play N(g3)-h1.

That, to say the least, could not easily be effected. In the thousands of games that I had played I did not think that I had even once played N(g3)-h1 and, apart from the Nimzowitsch game, could not think of any other where I had seen it deployed.

I later determined that this was the game

Knights are hardly ever sent into corners except to make captures, although I could recall a Kaspàrov win over Piket where the final move was (from black) ...N(g3)-h1!.

A few years earlier I had been forced to play N(b3)-a1 against Veselin Topalov, but that was an abject retreat and I lost the game.

The game Korchnoi Vs Fischer from the World Blitz Championship in Herceg Novi 1970 came to me as one very rare example of a knight being pùrposively retreated from the third rank into the corner: Fischer playing ... N(g6)-h8, then ... N(h8)-f7, then ... N(f7)-g5 and going on to win.

It struck me as almost a metaphor for my knowledge of Spanish. Seven years after moving to Spain my command of the language was rudimentary, but every now and again I might encounter a phrase and however improbable, think of how I might subsequently deploy it.

A couple of hours later I was playing a game for my club in Lorca. The position arose -

I played my attacked Knight from g3 to h1 to soon redeploy it at f2.
And I went on to win.

(256) James Marsh and the responsibility of doing your own thing

On the morning of June 5th 1991 I was selling advertising space for Cornhill Publications. I began introducing myself for the first time to sales prospects as ´James Marsh´. Many salespeople used pseudonyms although in my few months in that job I had never before adopted one. The name was partly inspired by Plaskett´s meaning ´marsh dweller´.
That afternoon through the hubbub in the office I heard colleague Tim Preston ask to speak to "... your President, James Marsh."
It transpired that out of the hundreds of potential leads he had chosen to call one with which he had no previous dealings and their President was James Marsh.
... ... ...
Some months later I had a dream which was scripted around an episode of the 1970s BBC drama Colditz which I had seen in the early 1970s.

The series was set in Colditz castle which was being used by the Germans during the Second World War to house hard case P.O.Ws. My dream was framed around an episode in which an Englishman hoped to exploit a clause in the Geneva Convention which permitted the repatriation of any P.O.W. determined insane. The officer planned a unique escape attempt by feigning insanity.
He was so convincing that many of his fellow inmates even were taken in and the Nazis sent him home.
Not long after the British Commanding Officer in Colditz reads out to some of his senior officers a letter he has received from the released prisoner´s wife. They are smiling as he begins the recital but then visibly shocked upon hearing that "... Doctors think a cure unlikely." i.e. his feigned insanity has slipped, unnoticed by his comrades, into the real thing.
The C.O. forbids any more escape attempts of that kind.
The ambience of the dream was somehow that my own attempts at yoga had led me to too isolated, unnatural and indeed dangerous a way of life, and damn near the brink. A more wholesome, social and integrated lifestyle such as that upon which I had embarked in 1991 was much better.
Shortly after the dream I was to see that episode of Colditz rebroadcast.
I noted that the "crazed" and crazed escapee was Wing Commander George Marsh.
... ... ...
On October 27th 2009 I tried ringing at work someone with whom I had worked at Cornhill but with whom I had had no contact in 13 years. I was asked by the person who took the call for my name. For some reason I gave the one that I had never deployed since 1996: "James Marsh". I was then asked for my company name and improvised; "I work for my own company."
My erstwhile colleage proved unable to take the call.
The next day I (re)e mailed Byron Jacobs requesting he send me a diagram of a chess position.
He did, also asking if I had given up with the Internet Chess Club, presumably because he often frequented it and I, who had been apt to hang out there, now rarely did.
I replied, sullenly and very inaccurately, that I had given up on life. He responded that if a man had become fed up with the ICC then he had probably found something better to do. I sent back again (untruly!) that I had given up on life.
But at the end of his response Byron had asked if I had seen Man on Wire, saying that he had watched it the previous evening - the 27th - and that it was stunning; "Man´s got balls of steel."
I seemed to recall hearing something about this film, and so looked at its trailer on Youtube.
I was amazed and went on to view the entire film that day, blown away by the fairy tale story of Philippe Petit´s illegal tightrope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center of New York in 1974.
I noted that the director of this 2008 Best Documentary Oscar winner was 46 year old Cornishman, James Marsh. His name had never registered with me before.

The trailer for this breathtaking film spoke of striving for the impossible ("That is what we´re here for") and how life is for living and the film concludes with the 57 year old Petit speaking of the importance of not repeating yourself and of making "... every day, every year, every idea a true challenge, and then you live your life like you are on a tightrope."

Earlier that morning I had been adding some quotations to a file of such that I was making under the heading Responsibility. Most of the quotes I had already there were about punctuality and reliability, but this new batch was for the most part from respectable people I knew who were in agreement that 9 to 5 routine was nothing to be proud of and that one could be perfectly responsible and respectable without subjecting oneself to such straightjacketing.

James Marsh´s film proved a timely motivational fillip!

The BBC Colditz series ran from 1972 to 1974, so it was showing in the same year as Petit made his walk, although the epsode featuring Wing Commander Marsh´s escape aired on December 21st 1972.

(255) Predicting the National Lottery numbers

A codicil to Entry (6)
happened in September 2009.
Derren Brown performed a TV stunt in which he appeared to have predicted the 6 balls drawn in the National Lottery.

I contributed to various threads about it at the Comment Is Free site.
One, by Vicky Frost, invited readers to vote on how he could have pulled it off.
I chipped in with a post which became, at 16 Sep 09, 11:01pm, the penultimate -

Vote: How did Derren Brown do it?
Quite late on September 9th I posted at Vicky Frost´s CiF piece of September 7th re Derren Brown´s staking his career on predicting the lottery.

I pointed out that it had been done before and gave a link to Entry 6 at my Blog. The number of hits the Blog got that day was over 1400. It was averaging less than 100.

Also on September 9th James Meikle posted one of several other CiF articles about Brown´s attempt to predict the lottery later that day. He indeed mentions there that Paul Daniels advocated Brown deliberately getting one number wrong, perhaps to add verisimilitude.

Mine was one of the last comments, and on September 11th -

JamesPlaskett 11 Sep 09, 4:06pm
Camelot said in a statement. "It is impossible to affect the outcome of the draw and Derren Brown is not suggesting he is doing this."
But of course it is impossible!

Makes you wonder then why Camelot tried, unsuccessfully, to take legal action to prevent Paul McKenna from doing precisely that, doesn´t it?

Also, after McKenna´s psychokinesis experiment made 3 of the 7 "willed" balls manifest - an event with odds of about 2.8% chance of happening - they immediately changed the lottery rules so that getting 3 of the 6 balls did not automatically guarantee a ten pounds prize.

I wonder why?

"It is impossible to affect the outcome of the draw..."
Still, just in case....

I have made some similar comments about the 1996 McKenna psychokinesis experiment at other CiF threads anent Brown´s stunt.
The number of hits on my blog on Sep 10th was almost 8,000.

Now see what else happened that day -

Note that Brown´s "Prediction" happened on September 9th. The "revelation" happened on C4 on September 11th.
The Bulgarian real life 4.2 million to one replication of the six numbers occurred on September 10th, i.e. in between Derren´s "miracñe" and his "explanation".
Three of the numbers also appeared in the September 13 draw.
An unprecedented 18 people guessed all six numbers when they were drawn the second time on September 10. The winners each get 10,164 leva (5,197 euros).
In the first draw on September 6, nobody got all six numbers right.

Those were -
2 11 23 28 35 39


Would you Adam and Eve it!?
... ... ...
In fact the odds on those same six numbers of the forty-two used in the Bulgarian draw reappearing were higher still: 5,245,786 to one.

And that is without even taking into account the chances of Mr Brown´s "magical prediction" coinciding with the recurrence.

McKenna´s psychokinetic experiment was designed to test whether a concentration of focused minds could will the lottery outcome, just like Wogan´s earlier attempt to marshall mental power.
On the day of Brown´s "prediction", September 9th 2009, this blog got over 1400 hits.
On the following day, September 10th 2009, when the same numbers were drawn again in the National Lottery of Bulgaria, it received 7851.
Almost all hits on both days were from the Guardian threads directly to Entry (6).

Also consider -

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

(254) Same car, same key

On April 23rd 2008 I turned the key in the door of my parked, dark blue, Hyundai Accent, stepped inside ... and saw a mysterious magnetic religious icon on the dash.
Also, I then noticed, it was in a far more spruce condition internally.
This was not my car!
Although mine was parked just 10-15 metres further along this road in Cartagena city centre, this was a car of identical make and colouring and, somewhat disturbingly, my key opened it.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

(253) shall you receive

I gave a fiver to a mendicant couple in Southend at Easter 2007, the first occasion that I gave more than a few coins to beggars.
A day or two later my (somewhat scruffily attired) wife and son dined at the El Descargador restaurant in La Union and, to their great surprise, when it came to paying the bill they discovered that it had been already paid for them by an anonymous couple at an adjacent table, who had since departed.

On March 21st 2009 I contributed five pounds to a minibus fare in Leicestershire, although, in view of the number of passengers, I needed only to contribute just over a pound.
The next day I hopped in a taxi for the return journey to the same railway station with someone whom I did not know and he offered to pay the entire fare of 5.80 Pounds.
I insisted on chipping in about half.

On March 23rd 2009 I returned to a girl at a Bureau de change at Luton airport an extra 10 pounds she had mistakenly given me, adding that I did not want to get her into trouble.

A couple of days later two Spanish cops let me off quite a serious misdemeanour, adding “Bye Bye”, when I had also failed to produce my license and insurance, although I actually did have both with me!

On May 5th 2009 I gave a wino woman 22p at Highbury and Islington corner in London.
The next day I picked up first a 2 centimo piece near check-in at Luton airport and shortly after a 20p piece from the floor.

I often gave gift copies of my book Coincidences away only shortly afterwards to sell the same number, e.g. Simon Williams and a Bulgarian guy who styled himself TheNewOne at the Internet Chess Club each bought a copy shortly after I had given two copies away.
This must have happened about a dozen times since publication in September 2000.

On June 28th 2009 I was at at Cala Cortina beach (see Entry 242) when a woman approached me asking for money for her petrol to enable her to drive the 50 kilometres or so back to Murcia city. Her story struck me as highly implausible, but I parted with 6 €. She was asking for 10 €.
As she walked away from my car I handed her a gift copy of Coincidences.

I had sold 244 copies with a further 8 that might have been termed "bartered", but sales had dried up and it had certainly been over a year since I had made the last one.

(Her phone number turned out to be, as I rather suspected it might, bogus.)

On July 4th 2009 I received this message at the English Chess Forum -

Sent: Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:54 pm
Dear James
A couple of really strange (chess related) coincidences have happened to me recently and so I have been trying in vain to find a copy of your book on the subject. Can you help?
Best regards, John Anderson

We had shared a flat at a tournament in Guernsey in 1978 and had bumped into each other a few times since.

I asked him if he would like to buy a signed copy or just to have his library get it for him. I also asked him to please detail his own coincidences.

The next day I got this e mail -
From: John Anderson Sent: Sunday, 5 July, 2009 11:57:03
Subject: Coincidence?

Hi James

A signed copy would be great... I tried the local libraries, Foyles, even Chess & Bridge(!) without success, but read somewhere that you may have self-published, hence the direct contact.

A couple of months ago I found myself thinking about Nigel McSheehy, wondering what he was up to, was he still playing, that sort of thing. I`ve no idea why this thought should come to me as although we were (chess)friends as teenagers, I haven`t seen or heard from him since 1983 when I moved back up to London. I looked on the ECF grading database to see if he was still listed but it seemed he was no longer active.

Then a friend sent me an email about the 1st Worcestershire Congress which takes place in a couple of weeks time in Bromsgrove, near to where Nigel lived and worked when I knew him. I didn`t think of this as being a coincidence at the time, just that it might be worth entering and would be a good excuse to revisit some old haunts, see some old friends and, of course, I resolved to try and look Nigel up.

The very next day, on the ECF forum, Nigel was mentioned! He had a peculiar habit of recording his moves using R U Y L O P E Z instead of a-h apparently and I was about to write in saying that he used Binary to record his moves when I knew him - together with "screwing" the pieces into the squares in order to demonstrate to his opponent that this was clearly the only correct move in the position!

But before I could do that, Keith Arkell had posted that Nigel had died a few years ago. I googled Nigel to see if there was a local obituary or something and I was simply amazed to see your blog
Living the Dream: A Coincidence Diary: (212) N.A.P. McSheehy
in pole position.

I was amazed because - and this is the really spooky thing - the previous evening I had watched you in a re-run of WWTBAM - the first time I had ever seen it. While I was aware of your success, of course, I was just randomly channel-hopping when your picture caught my attention. I never watch the program, let alone the "Classic" repeats!

The other weird thing was that I was about to start a new thread on the ECF forum along the lines of "Where are they now?". I was curious as to what had happened to some of the great friends and strong players (relative to me,not you!) I`d met over the years. I was going to start with Jonathan Kinlay who won the British Under-21 Championship but got married very young, just after he graduated from Bristol University. The rumour at the time was his new bride (Maggie?) didn`t like chessplayers very much and had made him stop playing!

I`m not sure there was any truth in that but other than writing a monograph on the Keres Attack and doing an Audiotape on the Kings Gambit he did, it would appear, hang up his chess boots.

So imagine my surprise when on a thread discussing who would make a good ECF president, Jonathan Kinlay`s name came up within a day or two. It seems he is/was a very successful businesman similar to David Norwood.

Anyway, I`m off to buy an extra Lottery ticket this week, just in case...

Best regards

In mid-1986 Angela Julian-Day (see Entry 14) had mentioned to me chatting with this John Anderson as she took a bus ride through London.

He verified it in a subsequent e mail -

Yes, I do recall chatting up a very pretty girl on the top deck of 159 bus in 1986! I think we were sat next to each other when I heard what I thought was an American accent - those were the days when we still had conductors of course - only to be corrected that it was Canadian. Could that be the same one?

However, when I asked her what she was doing in London she said she was an International Chess player! I remember having to suppress a smile but she was really charming. I`m sure she never mentioned you though...
... ... ...
In the early afternoon of November 7th 2010 I bought my wife a cake she had specifically requested from an ALDI store and jokingly donated the centimo change to the checkout girl.
"Chica rica", I observed. She smiled.
A few hours later I picked up a centimo from the forecourt of a nearby petrol station.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

(252) Getting real

Circa 2:30 a.m. on June 24th 2009 I was seriously thinking about putting something on Facebook about the cute and minor coincidences of my names being Harold James and Harry Potter´s names being Harry James with us sharing the same surname initial, too.
Also, due to a fall down the stairs on May 18th 2009 I had acquired a similar zigzag mark on the right forehead, the same place as his.

I had already posted a small reference to those on Twitter on June 15th -

Last dressing off... got a true Harry James Potter scar now.. and in the same place. Just as well my name´s Harold James Plaskett...!?¿

A few minutes later my wife, who had recently returned home from a concert, shouted out that she had just noticed that amongst those who had begun to follow her on Twitter during her three hour evening out was none other than the actor who plays the boy wizard: Daniel Radcliffe!
(...or someone masquerading as him!?)

And this without her having drawn his attention to herself via following him at the site first.

Also, just shortly before I had been looking at an article in which Harry´s future wife says she is thinking about quitting acting -
Acting? I think I've had enough, says Harry Potter star, Emma Watson Mail Online

´The 19-year-old said that she does not have a 'burning passion' for acting and that she may give up her film career once she finishes playing Harry's school chum Hermione.´

As Fiona had reciprocated and begun to follow ´Mr Radcliffe´ on Twitter, I did too.

I even sent him some direct messages about the coincidences -

@danielradcliffe Just as I am about to put something on Facebook/here re my name being Harold James P. and having acquired the Harry Potter

scar re falling downstairs 5 wks ago, my wife pittkethley , shouts that Daniel Radcliffe himself has become a follower of hers at Twitter!!

@danielradcliffe It´s all in the stars, I tell you

Then, at 3:20 a.m, as I copied the Daily Mail piece on Ms Watson ready to paste here -

at Facebook, something I had never seen before quite unexpectedly popped up on my computer screen -

The Love Thermometer says "Discover your love"... "Test your love".

That prompted me to post further on Twitter -

Just after I´d finished this

...and as I went to post that link at Facebook re this coincidence nexus, this crops up on my screen -

All of it on the theme of GETTING REAL...

The next day I noticed that ´Daniel Radcliffe ´ was now following me on Twitter.

Later on I checked my Statcounter figures and saw that, at 3:33 a.m. on June 24th 2009, i.e. almost contemporaneously with my posting on Twitter about the pulsing Love Thermometer appearing on my screen, someone had entered -

love same part of brain religious experience cat scan

into a search engine and had thus been led to this blog.

I looked at the details and saw -

Referring Link
Host Name
IP Address [Label IP Address]
United States
New York
... ... ...

It was somebody in Flushing.

Lastly, in the early hours of June 26th 2009 I found myself looking at/for stuff about Joan Collins on the net, having just been moved to consult her Wikipedia entry.
One was this American TV interview, posted November 2008,

with a reference from the interviewer to his looking like what Harry Potter would be in the future.
My wife and I had shared some jokes about my now being suited to play a mature Harry Potter.

And then the interviewer, Harry Smith, mentions that Daniel Radcliffe will be on the show next week!

Here´s that Daniel Radcliffe interview -

On August 14th 2009 fellow Harry Potter actor Tom Felton posted on Twitter that, although he was urging Dan Radcliffe to "tweet" he had not yet begun to do so.
i.e. the tweeting Daniel Radcliffe was not real.

Monday, April 27, 2009

(251) Drs use CiF to read minds and suss identity

In the summer of 2008 I suffered a severe, public low blood sugar fit or hypoglaecemia attack.
Following some days of observation in hospital I was released and advised to have my head checked out (they had already ascertained that there was no alcohol nor trace of drugs in my blood system) to see if epilepsy or some other disorder might be involved, and so in December 2008 I went to the same nearby hospital for my first ever electoencephelogram.
It was conducted by a woman.
The results showed nothing unusual.
But when I saw a doctor afterwards about them at the Neurological department of the Naval Hospital in Cartagena, she advocated a CAT Scan, just to make absolutely sure all was okay.

This I had at the Hospital Virgen de la Caridad in the last week of January 2009.
The results I was told would be sent to my GP... or at least that was what I, with my imperfect Spanish, understood the hospital personnel who conducted the scan to be saying.
I noted that all of them were women.
But the GP said he never got the results, so about the last week in February I went back to the Neurological dept and made an appointment with a lady official there to see a Dr about my results a few days later, after they had been dug out.
It was around the first week in March, then, that I saw two lady doctors about the CatScan.
They held up shots of the inside of my head - the first time that I had seen such photos - and poured over them, concluding that I had no evidence of any brain disorder and that the fit had been caused by severe low blood sugar; nothing more.

On March 13th 2009 I saw this piece in The Independent -

It prompted me to seek out Hassabis - whom I knew slightly through chess although I had spoken to him little and certainly not in the previous seven years or so. I did not know that he had moved into the field of neuroscience, and I sent him this first communication on Facebook in which I directed him to coincidences concerning the work of Prof. J. Lorber -

H. James Plaskett
13 March at 17:14
Hi. Saw the bit about your work in The Independent. Check out Entry 169 at before you´re so sure we understand how brains work.

Entry 169 is about Prof. Lorber´s work with hydrocephalic people, some of whom were revealed by scans to have almost no brain but unimpaired intelligences.

In January 2009 I realised that some unnecessary and inaccurate comments of mine at The Guardian´s Comment Is Free site were insulting to women in general, more so to women doctors and in particular to onesuch.

There were also wholly uncharacteristic and, for the most part, quite untrue. The profession of medical doctor is one I have always held in high regard.
And my words would also have read as appearing to let something slip, yet even that version of events was also false.
I got the comments removed.

On March 21st 2009 the particular lady made it clear that she was very offended by something. I assumed it to be probably those comments, although I was not 100% sure.
On the morning of March 22nd I was composing an explanatory and apologetic e mail to her when I paused and glanced at my In box.

It contained this reply from Demis -

No Brainer
Demis Hassabis and You

Demis Hassabis
22 March at 04:49
Hi James
Another funny (although minor) coincidence for your collection! A few weeks ago whilst browsing some controversial article on the guardian online I noticed some comments by you. I figured you must have been THE Plaskett and then found your blog. Quite interesting (one of my favourite Police songs is synchronicity and i didnt realise what it was about till now), although I think a lot of 'coincidences' are actually just quirks of the way our attentional system works.

Anyway, so a few weeks later, here you are contacting me. Dont worry, I'm fully aware that we are a long way off understanding how the mind works in any detail. However, for the first time ever I think we may have a truly useful tool now in the shape of neuroimaging to probe these types of questions (that's why i only recently got into neuroscience) and for example would trivially be able to confirm cases of hydroencephalitis.
Best wishes

I noted the unusual time at which the message had been sent.

"No Brainer" was indeed the heading given by Richard Milton (whom I met for the first time and with whom I dined in London on March 19th 2009) to his piece on Prof. Lorber´s discoveries at his, sadly, suspended website, .
It was also how I had headed my e mail.

I noted the image Demis put alongside his Facebook identity: a photograph of a scan of a head with the brain clearly visible inside.

That I should open just this e mail, in which he refers to having been drawn to my web diary of coincidences via comments of mine at the Guardian´s Comment is Free website, as I was composing my conciliatory e mail to the Dr confirmed to me that it was indeed such comments that had got up her nose.

In the Independent piece of March 13th 2009 he is styled "Dr Hassabis".

On March 23rd I noticed this Guardian Blog -
Here was Demis himself fetching up, for the first time, at The Guardian site, the next day.
I left the first comment.
The podcast mentions that Demis had had his viva the day before.
Checking this with him it transpired that the Podcast was recorded on March 20th, so he was not a Dr when The Independent piece appeared but had actually qualified on March 19th - the day I dined with Milton.

Friday, February 27, 2009

(250) Another such cough

On the morning of February 27th 2009 I at last got around to making amendments to my essay Playing The Game at my other Blog - .

The alteration I made was to include the text of an e mail that I had sent to Bob Woffinden and the Ingrams on May 10th 2008, and which I later forwarded to Jon Ronson, as a codicil to the essay´s first point.
On each occasion I had headed the e mail
Another Such Cough.
It read -

As a further illustration of what I am getting at, at a car boot fair this morning a stall holder brought up with me the subject of Ingram´s win and mentioned the signals "... whenever the guy coughed".

At the adjacent stall was a lady, a smoker, who had earlier that morning, with myself, helped herself to one of the first guy´s chips.

At the word "coughed" she coughed. She never coughed again the whole morning.
I pointed this out to them.

A few minutes after I did so my wife drew my attention to something which she had just spotted in The Sun on line. It was an article hinting that Tarrant might be abandoning his job as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? host -

Tarrant says that doctors have diagnosed that his long hours in the studio have led him to develop asthma.

6 days earlier The Sun also quoted Tarrant as saying that he now really wants to play the role of a gangster in a soap opera an idea he had mentioned some years before -
See also the foot of Entry 229.

Later I went to Wikipedia with the intent of copying the list of my books from the entry on myself and saw that a Dutchman unknown to me had added a photo of me holding a copy of Coincidences.
The previous day I had noted a thread at the site headed COINCIDENCES -

Thursday, February 26, 2009

(249) Beginning to learn to think

In the early hours of February 22nd 2009 I made a contribution to a Blog of Prof. Colin Blakemore´s at Comment Is Free entitled Science is just one gene away from defeating religion
Prof. B. argued hard for a materialist view of everything and suggested that we may soon nail the genes that force so many to take religious ideas seriously.

... at Cambridge... I walked to lectures past the Cavendish Lab... One day, scrawled on the wall, was... "CRICK FOR GOD".
No surprise that pivotal advances in science provoke religious metaphors. Crick and Watson's discovery transformed our view of life itself - from a manifestation of spiritual magic to a chemical process. One more territorial gain in the metaphysical chess match between science and religion.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was certainly a vital move in that chess game - if not checkmate. In an interview for God and the Scientists, to be broadcast tonight... Richard Dawkins declares: "Darwin removed the main argument for God's existence."

...Throughout the love-hate relationship between science and Christianity, the idea that human rationality is a gift from God has frequently been used as a justification, or an excuse, for scientific inquiry...
Science has rampaged over the landscape of divine explanation, provoking denial or surrender from the church...

Science is brilliant at questions that start "how", but religion is the only approach to questions that start "why". Throughout history, human beings have asked those difficult "why" questions.
It's true that spiritual beliefs of one form or another are universal, almost as defining of humanity as language is. But the universality of language and the fact that bits of the human brain are clearly specialised to do language suggest that our genes give us language-learning brains. Is the same true of religion?
Brain scanning has indeed shown particular bits of the brain lighting up with activity when people pray... or recollect intense religious experiences. Richard Harries said: "It would not be surprising if God had created us with a physical facility for belief."
But there is another interpretation, which might eventually lead to the completion of the scientific harvest.
..increasingly, those who study the human brain see our experiences, even of our own intentions, as being an illusory commentary on what our brains have already decided to do... could the pervasive human belief in supernatural forces and spiritual agents, controlling the physical world, and influencing our moral judgments, be an extension of that false logic, a misconception no more significant than a visual illusion?
I'm dubious about those "why" questions: why are we here? Why do we have a sense of right and wrong? Either they make no sense or they can be recast as the kind of "how" questions that science answers so well.
When we understand how our brains generate religious ideas, and what the Darwinian adaptive value of such brain processes is, what will be left for religion?

The spawned thread had 712 comments. Mine was the first -
22 Feb 09, 12:23am
He didn´t checkmate me, pal.
And I´m a Grandmaster.
I think Darwinian theory is codswallop.
But harmless codswallop.

Later that morning I competed in a one day chess event at Pilar de la Horadada.
I took with me into the tournament hall a copy of a book which I had purchased some years earlier but which I had only recently began to read through: Philosophy for Beginners by Dave Robinson and Judy Groves
I had been prompted by the realisation that my knowledge of even basic philosophy was inadequate.
I had read some books on the subject, including Russell´s History of Western Philosophy, in the 1980s, but not nearly enough on so important a topic.
It was a rarity to see anyone with a book at such an event, but to my surprise I spotted a friend of some six years, and ex-team-mate, Ivan Hernandez, carrying a copy of Principios elementales de filosofia by Georges Politzer.
This was a Fontana book in their Clasicos Universales series.

I had cetainly never seen the Chilean Hernandez carrying a book anywhere before and pointed out to him the coincidence of us reading books of similar titles.
Politzer, of whom I think I had never previously heard, was very much a materialist, as this quote from his 1926 work L´ Esprit makes clear -

... for the new philosophy, there can not be dualism between certainty and security... The new philosophers will have nothing more than mere certainty. Truly, philosopher will become anew a dangerous occupation, as it was in heroic times. The philosophers will anew be the friends of the truth, but by the same turn, enemies of the gods, enemies of the state, and corrupters of youth. Philosophy will, anew, involve a risk. A selection will then take place. They will not arrive at the truth but who love it to the point of daring to transform spiritual ventures into material ones.

In the 4th round I played Daniel Zuniga and again was surprised to see that he too had a book with him. It was subtitled Las Claves Para La Educacion (The Keys for Education) although its full title was a rendition into Spanish of The Learning Brain: Lessons for Education.
It was co-authored by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Uta Frith.
The Blakemore name jumped out at me. I was to discover that this was the Professor´s daughter.
It was about
what we really know about how the brain learns, and the implications of this knowledge for educational policy and practice, covering studies on learning during the whole of development, including adulthood.

Daniel explained that the book was not his but belonged to fellow contestant Grandmaster Mihai Suba. I had known Mihai for 20 years but could not recall ever before seeing him with a book.

Monday, February 16, 2009

(248) Big time blogging at The Times

My Statcounter showed that at 7.20 a.m. on Feb 15th 2009 someone in Tokyo had put
Chess Dream-A
into a search engine.

The 2nd and 3rd hits were of this blog, but the 8th was -

Thought Experiments : The Blog: Living the Dream

- [ 翻译此页 ]It's as if she has awoken from a dream, a rather pleasant dream, ... (Why couldn
't it have been chess, where I might have turned my obsession to account, ... - 27k -

I was intrigued and followed the link to discover Bryan Appleyard´s blog.
I had no previous idea that he blogged.

Amusedly I sent him this e mail of pretend annoyance at 13:23, Spanish time, Feb 15th 2009 -

I note a Blog entry of yours of July 18th 2008 headed
Living The Dream.

You have stolen the title of my Blog!

I shall write to The Times...


The next day I looked at The Times on line and saw an article headed The guide to the 100 best blogs: Part One
but with no clue from that to the author.

I clicked on it and saw it was from the previous day´s Sunday Times under the heading

Most Read.

It was by Appleyard -

Appleyard says at his blog that he began it in March 2006.

I also began mine then.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

(247) The only thing that truly matters

At 9.20 a.m. on February 9th 2009 (the 25th anniversary of my commencing a diary) I was reading an interview with Jeremy Paxman in the online edition of The Guardian.

At the same time I was musing on how gnosis was the only really important thing.

I was thinking of saying to an interviewer - maybe even him - that above all political comment, all art, all efforts to find justice, all criticism of neo-Darwinism and of the philosophical arguments for God´s existence this was really the only thing that mattered: direct experience of the divine.
Spiritual consciousness.

When I had my first experience of higher consciousness in June 1986, I found, as I reviewed it immediately afterwards, the Elkie Brooks song No More The Fool was playing in my head.

The gnosis I sought I now had.
I knew and for the rest of my life would be a knower.

I thought of an image that had come to me before re our efforts to bring Douglas Baker to justice, i.e.
cops rushing into a house as they are notified that a dangerous criminal is upstairs.
On the ground floor they note, out of the corners of their eyes as they dash past, some magical happenings.
But they are Police officers and have not been summoned to the premises for any reason other than to investigate or even apprehend a criminal, and hurry upstairs... but so they miss the point.

The real point.

I then read further on in the Paxman interview until I read something which had been invisible before:
"I suppose as one gets older - I would have described it at the age of 21 as the process of selling out, but another way of looking at it is to say, actually, the world is not a very simple place, and that as you get older simple-minded solutions seem less attractive."
Paxman will turn 60 next year. It is hard to say what he deeply believes in, and I doubt this is due entirely to a public obligation of neutrality. The opinions he offers tend towards the banally mainstream: Tony Blair was an "amazing phenomenon"; the "end of ideology" makes this political generation less exciting; "professional politicians" have seen off Westminster's great characters, and so on. His books hint at a vaguely middlebrow sentimentality. He began going to church 20 years ago, but stopped a decade ago, when he lost his faith in faith.
"Is that something I don't want to talk about?" he ponders, when I ask where he stands on God today. "Yeah, it probably is." For a moment it is as if he is talking to himself. Then, suddenly earnest, "I mean, it is the only important question really. Is there a purpose? And I've not got an answer to that. And to suggest that I have a hard and fast position on this matter implies a degree of certainty that I don't have, and I wish I did. Life would be much easier if you knew."

Se Paxman at 22:25 here debating Pascal´s Wager with Christopher Hitchens -

(246) Pascal´s Wager: tossing a coin on the ultimate bet

On the evening of February 8th 2009 I was reading from and contributing to a blog at the Guardian´s Comment Is Free section.
It was by Sean Clarke -
Join my campaign for a middle way in the atheist/theist bus debate. You have nothing much to lose, and plenty to gain
You wait ages for a bus-based theological advertising campaign, and then two come along at once. But I think it's time for a third. If Blaise Pascal were in charge, the ad would read something like:
There might be a God after all. Maybe you should factor that in.
The original atheist bus campaign irritated detractors in its own camp for the word probably: "There's probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life." It was, said the hardliners with open contempt, an agnostic bus campaign.
Then came the Christian counterstrike. The Christians want to put together an ad saying: "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian party and enjoy your life."...
It strikes me that my man Blaise "Sums" Pascal has been overlooked in all this. "Sums" memorably commented that, as a gambler, if you didn't know whether or not there is a God, you might as well behave as if there were. Winnings: eternal life, infinite bliss etc. Stakes: forgoing a bit of bad behaviour. Odds: immaterial. It's like a twopenny lottery ticket to win the world – you can spare those two pennies.
Pascal's advice on the bus front, I think, would be the following. Given what we know about the stakes, it's worth putting a punt on the existence of God... Better to state openly that you believe at least in the possibility of him/her and to perform some act of charity, as an earnest of good faith...
I posted something re the primacy of direct personal experience of the divine -

  • JamesPlaskett's profile picture JamesPlaskett

    07 Feb 09, 1:09pm
    What might be a more accurate representation on the side of a bus of the attitudes of Blaise Pascal is not the wager which he PUBLICLY spoke of during his short life, but the wording his servant found on a scrap of paper hidden in the lining of his coat... a testimony of something that had happened 8 years earlier.
    Pascal had written it down and kept the paper close to his heart.
    Here is what it said:
    ‘In the year of Grace, 1654, on Monday 23rd of November… From about half past ten in the evening Until about half past twelve:
    FIRE! God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob Not of the philosophers and scholars Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace God of Jesus Christ. Fire!
    Now he said nothing about it during his life, whilst going through the motions of church attendance and obeisance in all the accepted modes of his time and place.
    But the reality of what made him embrace the supernatural only became apparent after he died.
    Indeed it may well be that this is far more common than is popularly supposed.
    When researching her 1984 book, The Making of A Moonie, Eileen Barker presented a questionnaire to members of the Unification Church and also to a control group.
    It contained one question that had also been asked of a hundred postgraduate students by David Hay:
    "Have you ever had any religious or mystical experiences."
    So high was the percentage that said they had, often with accompanying comments like, "
    No Ive not told anyone. For the simple reason, theres such a lot of disbelievers about, and theyd ridicule you, like
    ", that she felt that the emphasis in psychology was put on the wrong factors.
    I do not therefore, want to suggest that Moonies are unique or freakish because they will (very probably) have had some kind of religious experience; I do, however, want to point out that they find themselves in an environment in which they (and, indeed, others) BELIEVE that such experiences are uncommon and that those who have them can be considered slightly (or very nutty).
    Reading through the responses of both Moonies and the control group, I began to feel that had Freud been studying present-day students in Britain rather than 19th century matrons in Vienna, he might have concluded that it was spiritual rather than sexual repression which lay at the root of many current frustrations. It is, after all, often quite acceptable for a student to tell his friends whom he slept with the previous night. He is far less likely to tell them that Our Lady appeared while he was saying his prayers.
    As the 21st century dawns science and religion are in opposition.
    It has no always been so.
    But these days reductionism, neo-Darwinism and atheism rule, so such spiritual experience gets hushed up.
    It is such experience more than anything else which refutes atheism.
    Without it you´re left weighing up the classical arguments for God or choosing which of the religious creeds is the right one.
    Having been touched just once by divine consciousness you from then on are a gnostic, and simply know that materialism is wrong.
    The catch is that it is a Cassandrine gift. She could prophecy the future accurately, with the snag that nobody would ever believe her.
    The inability to provide the slightest evidence for any gnostic experience is what cowed the students in the above cited survey not to speak of them.
    And what caused Blaise Pascal to carry the treasure close to his heart for the rest of his days.
    But never to speak of it.
    And certainly not to paste it on the side of any bus.

It prompted a cogent question, to which I later responded -

  • JamesPlaskett's profile picture JamesPlaskett

    07 Feb 09, 9:32pm
    robbo100 posts -
    @ JamesPlaskett
    Why doesn't God make himself known in no uncertain terms to everyone rather than just a rare few then? He could do, couldn't he, if he's all powerful? He could do it so even the likes of Richard Dawkins could be in no doubt.
    Bloody good question...
    Gnosis has made me a Theist... yet His seeming caprice makes me not humble and pious, but rather frustrated and pissed off.
    We ARE indeed, robbo100, entitled to a clearer insight into what the deal is.
    At Dr Thacker´s
    God On Trial CiF Blog
    mikeeverest posted
    at Sep 07 08, 11:23am -
    There is no argument for the existence of God, there is only experience.
    I wish those who claim to have Faith would stop trying to provide explanations for Him. How arrogant is that?
    If you want to know God, meditate. You will, eventually, experience direct, incontrovertible proof of His love and your connectedness with everything in the Universe. Then you will have Faith and no fear.
    Religion is a distraction, an obstacle, a man-made vehicle for power mongers and oppressors and for those trying to make sense intellectually of something that is beyond all human understanding BUT NOT HUMAN EXPERIENCE.
    Be scientific, conduct the experiment. And yes, it is replicable, millions have carried out the same experiment and report the same results.
    And -
    at Martin Kettle´s May 27th 2007 The Dawkins Delusion CiF Blog, please do note this from
    Chewtoy -
    28 May 07, 5:41pm
    A modern day myth just as persistent as religious ones is that scientists and rational atheists can't be bigots.
    Recently I saw the BBC Horizon episode 'God On The Brain' in which spontaneous religious experiences were linked to certain temporal lobe activity, caused by for instance epileptic seizures. A neurotheological scientist called Dr Persinger has developed a helmet creating an electromagnetic field that triggers the same effect and Richard Dawkins was invited to test it. Dawkins repeatedly said: "I really want to have a mystical experience". The conviction with which he said this and the look on his face reminded me of a kid who feels left out after not receiving an invitation to a party. This suggests to me that his zealous rants are somewhat based on jealousy. I strongly suggest he try psilocybin.
    Whereas I personally would not advocate halucinogens as a means of cleansing the doors of perception ( I have never taken drugs )
  • JamesPlaskett's profile picture JamesPlaskett

    07 Feb 09, 9:41pm
    (SORRY: last post went up before completion!)
    I find Chewtoy´s pointing out Richard´s repeated expressed desire for Gnosis very noteworthy.
    Traditionally the religious impulse in man has found two types of expression:
    the first sees religion as the acceptance of a received doctrine.
    The second sees it as essentially a search.
    Gnosis is the goal of such a search.
    To address your inquiry, robbo; perhaps it is the lack of spiritual inquiry by people, including the man you nominate, which underlies their lack of gnosis?
    mikeeverest suggests, to my mind, a far more wholesome way of searching than that advocated by Chewtoy.
    But each, like Dawkins, looks down on mere believers in God.
  • Then later -
  • JamesPlaskett's profile picture JamesPlaskett

    08 Feb 09, 2:29pm
    I´ve just bet on Slumdog Millionaire to win Best Picture both at tonight´s Baftas and also the Oscars later this month.
    Good bet; but no bet is a safe one...
And lastly -
  • JamesPlaskett's profile picture JamesPlaskett

    08 Feb 09, 6:17pm
    robbo100; to continue my response to your query as to why a higher power does not confer spiritual experiences on all, even Richard Dawkins, and after having posted above Chewboy´s post in which he refers to Dawkins´"jealousy" of and desire for such knowing of the divine - check out this from a recent blog of thread contributor Jonathan West where he writes of a friend´s mystical experience -
    He is aware that experiences similar to his do pop up in the writings of various religions. He knows that while the details of his experience are unique to him, he is far from alone in having something like this happen to him.
    He is able to summon echoes of the experience from time to time.
    ... ... ...
    I have to admit to a twinge of envy. I've never had an experience like that. Perhaps my brain chemistry is such that it can't possibly happen to me. Perhaps my life has taken a sufficiently smooth path that my unconscious hasn't needed to scream so loudly at me. Perhaps God is content for me not to believe in him and has decided that I need no evidence of him. I have no means of knowing. In the absence of any comparable experience of my own, I am leaving him to interpret his experience in a way that he finds meaningful. The effects on him are clear enough and exist even though the causes are unknown, so I see no need to attempt to impose my interpretation of the events on him.
    Hmmm.... Seems the recounting of gnosis does indeed evoke jealousy in the breast of even the professed atheist.
    After all arguments, ontological, teleological, design-based or revelatory have been refuted, there remains for atheists the problem of testimony of direct perception of the supernatural experience.
    West admits it, and I think Chewtoy got under Dawkins´ skin with his comments on why the Prof. seemed so desirous of it.
    Investigation is the opposite of the blind acceptance of dogma.
    Is it really to much to hope that at some future point we will have a spiritual science, and thus "
    be far closer to understanding Man´s true nature
    " as Sue Blackmore speculated in The Sceptical Inquirer of Fall 1986?
    In the post above empathyfreak writes
    If you do not know whether something is true or false, then it is 50% likely to be true.
    ... ... ...
    Translated back to pascal's example, if I don't know whether the moon is made of green cheese or not......
    But remember he had those extra couple of words....."if you can never know whether the moon is made of green cheese........"
    But we CAN investigate the composition of the moon, and have done so.
    In the 1700s the French Academy of Science pronounced on the urban myth that stones fall from the sky:
    There are no stones in the sky therefore stones cannot fall from the sky.
    Rational enough.
    But on April 26th 1803, only some 30 yrs later, thousands of meteorites pelted the town of L´Aigle 140 kms from Paris.
    Jean-Baptiste Biot collected 38 kilos of the rock and exhibited it to the Academie.
    He also noted that along with the vast number of clearly non-indigenous stones there was another kind of evidence: moral evidence.
    The testimony of so many people that the rock was extraterrestrial.
    A thing dismissed as supernatural had to become incorporated into mainstream, accepted science.
    The only other way to acquire such rock was one which never occurred to anyone of that time: go up and get it..
    That happened 163 yrs later when Aldrin and Armstrong brought back the first samples of moon rock.
    Note just where the confirming meteorite shower chose to land.
    Not in the water with which 75% of our planet is covered. Not in the fields.
    On a specific named spot, a small town only a few hours by horse from where the Academie itself was based.
    During daylight, so everyone could attest to the reality of rocks falling from the sky.
    Thousands of them.
    The first words spoken on the moon were
    "The Eagle has landed."
    L´Aigle means The Eagle.
Having posted that I moved out of the room to where my wife and son were watching the beginning of No Country For Old Men, although here had been no prior announcement of their intent.
Fiona had seen it before and recommended it.
I decided to watch it through with them.

I noted that on two occasions a psychopathic killer allows an intended victim to call on a coin toss. The first time the man, unaware of the significance of the toss, called it correctly. His life was thus spared.
The second time was almost at the end where he permits a woman to choose.

The outcome is not entirely clarified, but it seems that she dies.

I then moved back to the Guardian thread and later posted -
  • JamesPlaskett's profile picture JamesPlaskett

    08 Feb 09, 11:22pm
    Dunno about Pascal´s wager but Jimmy´s just worked.
    I posted earlier -
    08 Feb 09, 2:29pm
    I´ve just bet on Slumdog Millionaire to win Best Picture both at tonight´s Baftas and also the Oscars later this month.
    Good bet; but no bet is a safe one...
    Now 43 quid richer.
I am not 100% certain about it but I think that the Bafta Award was given whilst I watched No Country For Old Men.
I did not appreciate until later that that flm was the winner of the Best Picture Oscar, as well as three others, at the 2008 Oscars.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

(245) Looking for Rita

Late on January 27th 2009 I was exchanging e mails with Candice Temple (see Entry 88).
In one she sent me a link to a video of a performer on a recent British TV programme about Dancing On Ice.

I replied that I was unenthusiastic about trying to dance on ice but that in 2008 I had for my first time skated, at a nearby rink, and added that I might well do so again this very week "... with a girlfriend".

I then referred her to Entry 119 here where she could see a photo of myself with my erstwhile ice skating girlfriend: Rita Koen.

I then decided to check out that entry again for myself, and so, for the first time in some days, logged in to this blog.

As I did so I saw that a note said that one new comment had been left and that I had the option of deleting it or making it publicly visible. It was at Entry 119, from someone styling themselves DiDi and only the first ten words or so were visible to me at that point.

But when I clicked on the option to view the comment I saw that it was one that had been left at 12:47 P.M. on Jan 24th.
It was from Rita.
That was the first communiqué I had received from her in twenty-nine years, and I noted it as I myself went to look at the picture of us to which I had just directed Candice.