The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby


The Pericles Commission CoverI finally got around to get­ting The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby this week. is it any good? If the sus­pense is too much for you, Gary’s a nice bloke, so if it were rub­bish I wouldn’t men­tion I’ve read it. The reason I left off buy­ing it for so long was that I was wait­ing for the paper­back. In the end the Kindle price dropped to the paper­back, so I got that ver­sion. I’ll also be buy­ing the sequel The Ionia Sanction, pos­sibly not till the price drops with the paper­back for that too, but then again it might be a Christmas treat instead.

The book is based on a real event. Ephialtes estab­lished the Athenian demo­cracy (if you ignore Cleisthenes), and then was killed a few days after by xxxxxxxxxxxxxx (I just real­ised, this would be a big spoiler). This, as Gary Corby points out in his author’s note, is in a few lines of the Constitution of the Athenians — which we’ll say was writ­ten by Aristotle because a dis­cus­sion of the author­ship would be tedi­ous, incon­clus­ive and utterly irrel­ev­ant to the point.

The book opens quickly.

A dead man fell from the sky, land­ing at my feet with a thud. I stopped and stood there like a fool, aston­ished to see him lying where I was about to step. He lay face­down in the dirt, arms spread wide, with an arrow pro­trud­ing out his back. He’d been shot through the heart.

It was obvi­ous he was dead, but I knelt down and touched him any­way, per­haps because I needed to assure myself that he was real. The body was warm to my touch. The blood that stained my fin­ger­tips, from where I had touched his wound, was slip­pery and wet but already begin­ning to dry in the heat, and the small cloud of dust his fall had raised made my nose itch as it settled.

It doesn’t nor­mally rain corpses, so where had this one come from? I looked up. There was a ledge above me, and another to the left. The one dir­ectly above was the Rock of the Areopagus, home to the coun­cil cham­bers of our elder states­men. The other to the left, but much farther away, was the Acropolis. There was no doubt about it; this man had fallen from the polit­ical heights.

Continue read­ing

Applied Cold Reading

Book in the snow

The best photo I’ve seen of cold read­ing by SPDP at Flickr.

I took a week­end off to attend a course in London on Applied Cold Reading. The course was given by Ian Rowland, who might be famil­iar to some read­ers as ‘Ian who from where?’, for every­one else he’s the author of The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading.

The Full Facts Book is mainly about Cold Reading in a psychic con­text. There are lots of people who can tell you how cold read­ing works in a psychic con­text. It relies on Barnum state­ments, state­ments that feel per­sonal but they’re true for every­one. I don’t find that a sat­is­fy­ing explan­a­tion. I get the impres­sion that the Barnum effect works best on gull­ible people. I know a few people who take psych­ics ser­i­ously and they’re all far less gull­ible than me. Another reason it’s a poor explan­a­tion is that there aren’t many people with a father called Brian, with dark hair, who’s miss­ing fin­gers from his left hand.
Continue read­ing

Barnum and Bunkum


I’ve been think­ing over the Project Barnum debate, as seen on Jourdemayne’s blog. It’s a good example of how two intel­li­gent people sin­cerely try­ing to work out what is best can dis­agree. Following alleg­a­tions against Sally Morgan, should psychic events be banned from theatres? Jourdemayne argues no and Michael Marshall says yes.

Zoltan, mechanical fortune teller

Zoltan, a fortune-teller who prob­ably won’t sue for libel.

I agree with Jourdemayne, but not with how she gets there. Continue read­ing

The place will be a mess for a while


While I was in Wales con­nectiv­ity was bad, so I had time to keep up with secur­ity on AoB Blog and Then Dig, but not here. This coin­cided with the dis­cov­ery of a major secur­ity flaw in a plug-in. For the past month or so I’ve been look­ing at how to fix the theme without los­ing everything, but it seems that might not be an easy task, so instead I’ve star­ted work on adapt­ing the AoB tem­plate for other sites.

It’s a handy exer­cise in see­ing what is effected by the hack and what isn’t, but it also means that vis­it­ors here will see things shuff­ling around or break­ing for the next few days or weeks.

An email to the Georgia DA etc, re: Troy Davis


Dear Recipient,

No doubt you’re receiv­ing plenty of emails protest­ing the exe­cu­tion of Tory Davis, and no doubt you’re aware why — and not con­vinced that reas­on­able doubt is enough to pre­vent an execution.

Instead I have a couple of questions.

If it is found later that Troy Davis is inno­cent, would you sup­port the con­vic­tion and death pen­alty of all those who pro­ceeded to enforce the exe­cu­tion des­pite clear evid­ence of reas­on­able doubt?

Would you also recom­mend that the UK Foreign Office warn British cit­izens against vis­it­ing Georgia on the grounds that the state of Georgia does not con­sider the pos­sible inno­cence of a per­son suf­fi­cient reason to avoid killing them?

With all due respect,

Alun Salt

Picking up the pieces

Aberystwyth beach

The Spirit of Aberystwyth (inspired after Instagram)

The move to Wales was less suc­cess­ful than I thought. Broadband was due on Aug 23, then August 31 and now October, some­time. It left me with very lim­ited time to con­nect to the inter­net and keep­ing the work site tick­ing over was the pri­or­ity. I’m back in England till either Sky or BT real­ise they can con­nect the house to the inter­net after all.

Over on AoB Blog, the new HTML5 theme is live. It inten­tion­ally looks like the old theme, but there are some obvi­ous changes made. The cus­tom­isa­tion of SlideDeck was helped greatly by this page on CSS select­ors from NetTuts and X:nth-child(n). It’s not sex­ily data­base driven, but it does the job. The theme was built from H5, a tem­plate from Digging into WordPress.

It’s been done a dif­fer­ent way to usual, as I prefer to exper­i­ment with new themes here first. It’s less of a prob­lem if some­thing goes hor­rific­ally wrong here. But for vari­ous reas­ons that’s no been pos­sible. I’m now look­ing ser­i­ously at rework­ing the theme for Then Dig, as that site has a few flaws. Something I’d like to add to Then Dig is a ver­sion of the Photo Search that I’ve set up at AoB Blog.

I also have another pro­ject I’d like to kick out of the door before Christmas, so blog­ging here will prob­ably be a little light for a while.

Oh, and see­ing it’s the anniversary of the Voyager launch I’ve updated the post I wrote on space archae­ology in 2006.