Reasons to be cheerful…

I’ve been away for a few weeks, both mentally and physically. Physically my family and I took a trip to New york. My wife is a native of Long Island NY so we went over with the kids to visit her mum and three sisters. Living so far away it’s difficult for our children to form a bond with the American side of our family. So it was lovely to see them scampering around the garden with their aunties and grandmother. I also took the opportunity to visit a few guitar stores to pick up some discount goods. My wife and I also took a few evenings off. We spent a night in Manhattan, saw a Yankees game and sipped drinks on the roof top bar of our hotel whilst gazing at the Empire state building.

Mentally, I took a break. I took my eye off the ball. I read, I drank, I ate and watched football, the nations biggest distractor. But I’m back.

Now I usually use this small platform of mine to highlight certain issues, express myself or simply bitch…usually about religion or governments.

I could talk about the absurdity of the Hobby Lobby story that has been a hot topic of late.
I could talk about people not knowing the difference between having your civil rights abused and not getting your own way all the time.
I could even talk about our government secretly pushing another bill through parliament to retain our private information. But I wont. Largely because I’m sure they are being covered by the excellently thorough (And thoroughly excellent) Adam Pain or Dale Cooper.

Today I want to share with a story that literally took my breath away.

There’s a small place in the USA called Tim’s place. IT’s a small restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico owned and run by Tim Harris and his family. Tim was born in 1986, he attended Eldorado High School and was voted home coming king by the highest margin in the schools history. He was also voted student of the year by the staff and faculty. After high school he attended Eastern New Mexico University where he earned certificates in Food Service and in Office Skills. He also worked at a variety of local restaurants including CiCi’s Pizza, Golden Corral, IHOP, and Peppers Bar and Grill. Tim enjoys a variety of sports, including basketball, volleyball, poly hockey, track and field, and golf. Tim is also an olympian and to my knowledge has won more medals than Michael Phelps.

Tim was born with Down’s Syndrome. 

As you can see he has in no way let his disability (maybe it should be renamed ability?) hinder him achieving his goal of being a restauranteur. He greets his customers with a hug and has dubbed his restaurant ‘The world’s friendliest restaurant’ and it’s open for breakfast, lunch and hugs. To date Tim has issued over 42,000 hugs since opening in 2010. Tim Says “I thought my restaurant would be very popular and that lots of people would come to see me. I was so excited when it came together. I got to watch the place unfold into my dream”

So many people today like to bitch and complain about where they’ve ended up in life. But it’s their choices that have led them to where they are now. If you have a dream then you owe it to yourself to follow it, whatever it may be. I know I’ve said it in previous posts but it’s worth saying again. You’re not going to get to the end of your life and someone will say

“Ok Mr Smith that was your practice run, are you ready for the real thing?”

So whatever it is that you want to do…do it. For FUCK sake DO IT!
There are ways and means of getting around any obstacle and what’s the worst that can happen? You fail and go back to the job you’re already doing?

That’s good advice that I could do with taking on board at this time in my life.

To find out more about Tim and his restaurant you can visit their website here

Or watch this Video

My wife and I have a daughter with Down’s syndrome. Our greatest hopes are that she’ll be independent,  self sufficient and above all happy. Seeing what Tim has achieved gives me an enormous amount of hope for her future.

I’ve always said that our greatest limitations are the ones we impose on ourselves.

Until next time…Love

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The liberation of everyone

On the 5th May, 1980, two teams of Britain’s Special air Service (SAS) conducted a raid on the Iranian Embassy, in London. Their mission was to rescue 20 hostages, held at gun point by 6 terrorists. The assault lasted 17 minutes and of the six terrorists only one survived. Nineteen of the twenty hostages were liberated. The vision of men in black overalls, abseiling down buildings, wearing gas masks and armed with an MP5 is the first image I have when I think of the SAS. The Iranian embassy siege catapulted the SAS into the spotlight after operating in the shadows since its conception in the deserts of north Africa in 1941.

SAS

The six terrorists entered the Iranian embassy through the front door, drew their weapons and so began the siege. Maybe if there had been better security the terrorists wouldn’t have even made it through the front door… Or maybe not.

“It’s for security reasons” said the large gentlemen, preventing the lift doors from closing
“But why?” I asked
“For security. You have to take your hood down”

I begrudgingly obliged and removed my hood. I was then told if I did it again I would be reported.

I understand the need for security, to give people the illusion of safety, but what I don’t understand is this obsession with not being allowed to wear a hood. If it was a ski mask or a balaclava  or a gas mask I’d understand… But a hood? Hoods don’t even cover your face, they don’t even obscure it. Look at someone who’s wearing a hood, you can see their face, all of it.

For the last few weeks I’ve walked into college wearing my hood up. Why? Because it’s against the rules. I have been experimenting in a little civil disobedience. Not a lot, just a little. Like dipping your toe into the water to see if your happy to jump in. For the last four weeks I was asked by several members of security to take my hood down. I disobeyed and continued towards my class without any repercussions. Now, I am fully aware that I’m being a dick when I do this… but as I said it’s an experiment. This week the same thing happened and as I was waiting for the lift I was accosted by a man who I assume was the head security man. We had an exchange of words and I was told, categorically, that if I didn’t remove my hood he would throw me out, “fair enough, but you still haven’t answered my question”

“It’s the college rules and for security”
Ahhh the rules… thank heavens for the rules. Without the rules we’d be left with only our common sense and intelligence. I know these people are just doing their jobs, but if history shows us anything, it is that people had their rights and liberties taken away by people who were just doing their job.

G4S security staff

Now, I’m sure most of you are thinking that if I were to commit some random act of violence then my actions would have been recorded on the college’s CCTV; and if I was wearing a hood then they might not be able to make a positive ID. And you could well be right; but, If I was wearing dark glasses, a baseball cap, one of those silly caps that golfers wear or in fact almost any other piece of headgear it probably would have obscured my face much more than a hood; and all of which are allowed on campus. If you also take into account that CCTV is questionable, at best, at stoping/lowering crime; and convictions arising directly from CCTV footage is again, not great. So I’m left asking myself what’s wrong with wearing a hood?

There is also another question: should we obey, just because we’re told? I personally feel that if we as human beings want to retain our freedoms the answer should be a resounding  NO! I have no problem complying with a request, so long as it’s not shrouded in bullshit and smeared with fear. However, I feel we should always question any such request, especially if it’s coming form a private security guard, and if your answer is along the lines of ‘It’s for security purposes’ I feel that’s not a good enough answer. I know this is not North Korea and we still enjoy a great deal many freedoms. But when can the comparisons between the UK and N.Korea be brought up? When there’s less of a gap? Fuck that! We don’t live in N.Korea or West Germany (as it was) or Russia or China, places that I deem to be police states, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t want this country heading down that road and to me, I feel it is.

There was a bill that made its way to the house of lords (Thankfully it was rejected). The bill proposed, in brief, that anyone as young as 10 found to be annoying or could be seen to possibly cause annoyance, could be arrested. Faced with a hefty fine and/or jail time. Just think about that. Anyone being annoying could be arrested. Chewing too loudly in a restaurant, walking too slowly on the path, poor pronunciation of the English language, peaceful protest, not taking your hood down in a public building, humming out of tune; the list is endless. In theory you could be arrested for doing anything. It just has to fall under the vague guideline of ‘Annoyance’

I must have shared the petition to have this bill blocked around to my friends on Facebook and Twitter a dozen times and only a handful of people signed it. Maybe that’s down to Facebook’s filtering system or maybe people are far too happy and prosperous with their toys and gadgets that they just don’t want to upset the apple cart, rock the boat…or they plain don’t give a shit. I knew in advance who’d sign it and I knew who wouldn’t. They’re the people we need to reach.

We all need to stand up and make sure that our freedoms remain in tact, even if that means you just sign an online petition. You don’t have to tie yourself to a gate, burn your underwear and not wash for a week. We just need to get more involved. Because one day your front door might be kicked in and a dozen men in black overalls and gas masks might come crashing in… all in the name of security.

“Evil is only allowed to bloom when good men stand idle”

Oh, I also stole a packet of chewing gum from a shop because the lady at the till was rude to me. About my hood…

Open your mind….

About a year ago a friend of mine posted on Facebook asking if anyone could recommend a good homeopathic doctor as he’s having problems with his back. I suggested that a trip to his GP or a chiropractor was in order and would probably yield better results. I was told I needed to be more open minded.

Open-minded image

Open-minded image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another friend posted a picture saying there was an orb/spectre floating in the background. I pointed out that it could quite easily be a spec on the lens or a reflection from the flash…again I was told I needed to be more open minded.

There is a notion that is flung around that to question something supernatural is to be closed minded, and to be close minded is a negative aspect of being human. This is not true and it can have dangerous consequences.

If a pilot, who was coming in to land at Heathrow with 300 passengers onboard said to himself ‘Ok I know what to do, I’ve landed a thousand planes. But you know what, today I’m going to keep an open mind, try something new and see what happens’  

I would describe myself as open minded. I’m more than happy to accept a new view or opinion.. so long as it’s based in fact and not superstition. I would also change my opinion on a subject if new evidence suggested so, although it would be a bitter pill to swallow. To me the true definition of being open minded is, willing to change your view despite what you believe.

I saw video a few days ago in which the stage & television medium/psychic Colin Fry gave a reading to a gentleman who had lost his son when he was just 3 months old (Please watch the video). I know the video is short, but there are a few classic signs of cold reading, and hot reading, that could explain how Mr Fry achieved his results. Fishing for answers, asking the gentleman to supply valuable information and simple deduction. Colin may possess supernatural powers and is able to communicate with the dead. However, I’m skeptical and unless he’s able to prove his abilities under test conditions then I will remain on this side of the fence.

If Mr Fry isn’t in possession of these magical abilities then what he has demonstrated in the above video is absolutely fucking disgraceful. If Colin Fry uses cold reading to achieve his results, then he’s systematically trampling over the beloved memories of the deceased, offering false hopes and exaggerated claims when people are at their most vulnerable and most desperate, all for profit, then he should be arrested for fraud. If Mr Fry truly believes that he has power to connect to people beyond the grave and hears voices in his head, then he could probably do with being in some kind of institution.

It was estimated at the turn of this century that the psychic industry was worth about $2 billion in the USA alone; and it’s growing. You require no formal training or qualifications to become medium/psychic and there is no governing body or guild, at least not in the sense of the GMC that doctors have. All you have to do is talk to people; and there will always be people who want a reading. While it’s not as lucrative as the oil industry it is older and it will be around for longer.

The James Randi foundation offers a $1 million prize to ANYONE who is able to demonstrate any psychic or paranormal ability under test conditions. Although thousands

en:Image:RANDI.jpg (Original text : James Randi)

en:Image:RANDI.jpg (Original text : James Randi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of people have attempted the challenge, to date the prize is yet to be claimed and has been on offer since 1964.

I have had people say to me that there are some people who go for readings, and that they take great comfort in hearing messages that their loved ones, who have passed on, are ‘in a better place’ or ‘happy and at peace’. So if it makes them happy, what’s the harm? To that I will say that a friend that offers false hopes and false promises is no friend at all. Especially if they are charging $700 for a psychic reading over the phone. At it’s most harmless it is just a bit fun, maybe after a few drinks down the pub or at a party. But when people make life changing decisions or squander the entire family fortune on trying to reach lost ones then it becomes deadly and it needs to stop. Or at the very least regulated by an independent body.

I don’t believe in psychics, reiki, ghosts, homeopathy or voodoo. Why?  because I see no reason why I should. To date, there is not a single shred of evidence that supports any of the above claims, at least nothing that can’t be attributed to cold reading or the placebo effect. So until there is, I will always question something that has no basis in truth or fact. I will try and keep an informed mind and not so open that my brain falls out.

Derren Brown.

Derren Brown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year I was lucky enough to part of the Derren Brown live show. I was picked at random from the audience and was asked to think of ANY word, write it down and seal it in an envelope. Derren then removed his envelope from under his jacket to reveal that we both had the same word written down. If you’re interested the word was CORNFORD. A model of guitar amplifier that I use. I have NO idea how he did it and I was 100% certain that he wouldn’t guess the word. The level of connection I felt with Derren at that time was overwhelming, I wanted burst. Derren makes no bones about how he achieves his results and there is nothing supernatural about it. I can understand how people are taken in by it all…It’s very powerful and has nothing to do with how intelligent or gullible a person is.

If you are someone who believes in such things then I would urge you to do some research into cold reading, if only to strengthen your belief in the supernatural. It’s certainly not my aim to convince you that there is no such thing as psychics, I’ll let you be the judge.

I would also like to add that there might very well be real psychics out there. But if there are, why has the $1 million prize reward not been claimed….for nearly half a fucking century?

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Tim

*FOOTNOTE*

There was an excellent blog about conformation bias written by a friend of mine which ties in nicely, totally coincidental I must say, which you can find here

And if you are interested in further reading on cold reading and the occult I would suggest:

The full facts of cold ready by Ian Rowland

Trick of the mind by Derren Brown

Confessions of a medium by Anonymous

Being poor isn’t a crime!

Last week the Daily Star reported on Marie Buchan, a 31 year old mother of 8 who lives on benefits. According to the Daily Star, Marie is ‘raking in £30,264-a-year in child tax credits, child benefit and income support as well as living rent-free in a large three-bedroom semi-detached house’

Marie has had her benefits capped at £500 per week (£26,000 per year) and she is now facing the prospect of eviction. After the cap her housing benefit was reduced from £115 per week to just £33 and she has to make up the short fall of £82 per week. She is in arrears on her rent to the tune of £2000.

The article was brought to my attention when a friend posted it on Facebook and I was disgusted to see peoples reaction to the story.

‘Sell a few of those kids, slut’ ‘These sluts are in every town’ ‘Stop fucking’ and my favourite ‘I don’t think you should get benefits over 3 kids’

What upsets me the most about this whole situation were not the venomous remarks, not the fact that a mother of 8 who lives off the state has a larger ‘income’ than me. It’s the fact that people seem perceive this as a real problem in UK, a bit like immigration. We have media outlets like The Daily Star and The Daily Mail to thank for that.

So let’s clear a few things up…

– 93% of people claiming housing benefits, work.
– 0.8% of benefit spending goes on fraudulent claims, which works out to about £1.2 billion. Now compare that to the £11 billion in unclaimed benefits.
– Only 8% of benefit claimants have 3 or more children

There is an excellent article here on the subject

The truth is that the vast majority of people who rely on the welfare system are everyday people. Our friends, family members and work colleagues. The notion that people who live off the state are somehow living rent free in a large house with Sky TV, broadband and all the trimmings is pure fiction. There are 30 million individuals who claim benefits along with 64% of families. With the ever increasing price of houses/rent coupled with lower paid jobs, the end of overtime and in some cases wage reduction it’s any wonder that these figures aren’t higher…Give it a few years.

I will not argue that there are indeed people who abuse the system and I’m sure with a few minutes research you could find said people. But they are the overwhelming minority, and if it’s the price we pay for not letting our fellow human beings die on the street, starving or freezing to death, then so be it. I for one am happy that we live in a country that has a safety net for people to use when and if they fall on hard times.

Poverty in this country has got to the stage where more and more people are relying on food banks, Welfare and hand outs in order to survive;  The Red cross has started collecting food for people in Britain, this is the first it’s had to do this since World War 2!

The Buchan’s are people, and have every right to water, food, shelter and warmth. These are not privileges extended only to those who can afford it. We ALL have a right to them.
If you are looking for someone to blame then I direct you towards the people that run the country. Some of whom live off the state with salary’s in excess of £100,000, with an expenses account, a second home and private education for their children. The IPSA has just given the OK for MPs to receive an 11% pay rise just days after George Osborne announced more cuts to government services.

So if you want to start bashing people who live rent free at the tax payers I say we start at the top and gradually work down.

A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.
~Samuel Johnson

T