The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.