Musk Ox SkullWalking into a dimly-lit cabin on the shores of a subarctic lake, I thought I saw someone staring at me from a dark corner. I walked closer to get a better look.

He wasn’t too talkative.

The Fortean Times, They Are A’ Changin’

Cute AliensEven since I was let loose at the age of seven in a school library with a “paranormal” section, I’ve been captivated by Fortean phenomenon, those strange events, places and creatures that can’t easily be explained by our current body of scientific knowledge. This includes UFOs, the Sasquatch (or Bigfoot or Yeti), frogs falling from the sky in hailstones, the Bermuda Triangle, magnetic children who attract spoons, ancient astronauts, the Loch Ness Monster, well-documented ghosts, and so on. I attribute this interest to a scientific mind trapped inside a wild imagination… each incident is like a intriguing and challenging puzzle to be solved (far more interesting, at any rate, than those “one car leaves from Toronto going east at 60 km/h, and another…” style problems) .

But despite the strange things reported at sites like the Fortean Times –a quality magazine, by the way, striking a good balance of skepticism and weirdness– I’ve noticed that a lot of the stranger things have fallen off the map in recent years. At first, I just related it to a certain boredom in such matters among the public, the same tediousness of topic that doomed series like the X-Files. After all, the Net should allow people interested in such things to connect and grow, right? Well, that’s partially right, and it did happen that way about a decade ago. But a new piece over at TCS: Tech Central Station – Internet Killed the Alien Star helps to put things into perspective.

The Internet processes all truth and falsehood in just this fashion. Wild rumors and dubious pieces of evidence are quick to circulate, but quickly debunked. The Internet gives liars and rumor mongers a colossal space in which to bamboozle dolts of every stripe — but it also provides a forum for wise men from all across the world to speak the truth. Over the long run, the truth tends to win.

Great food for thought, especially given the number of bloggers today who comment upon –and attempt to debunk– anything that hits the news. Are we learning to be more critical?

On the other hand, one can bring up the notion of Intelligent Design as science, or a bamboozled public when it comes to giving up one’s fundamental rights, even to the extent of allowing torture….

The Inverse-Metropolitan Law of Nachos

Finally back from the road again. This was my last time for a very long while, as the contract requiring me to give train in the various corners of the province ends on Monday. I’m a little sad in a way, since I do like to travel, but it’s nice to be home and not have to worry about things like how low my gas tank was reading, locating the people who were supposed to be unlocking facilities for me, and trying to find decent places to eat.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I am a very big fan of nachos. Nachos done right, that is. Crisp homestyle corn tortilla chips, lots of aged cheddar and monterey jack cheese, cumin-spiced meat, piles of fresh tomatoes, japepenos, green peppers and onions, and then there’s the homemade hot salsa and just-whipped sour cream on the side. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

But… my time on the road has taught me a very important rule of thumb. The population density is inversely proportational to the likelihood that:

  1. The torilla chips are stale, no-name Doritos coated with salt and MSG-laden “flavour dust”;
  2. The “cheese” is a watered-down Cheez Whiz knock-off that glows in the dark and smells vaguely like my Jeep’s transmission;
  3. The veggies (if there are any) are the remains of a salad that someone couldn’t finish last week;
  4. The salsa has the flavour, consistency and spice of two-year-old ketchup (but not the good Heinz stuff); and
  5. The meat (if there is any) is only slightly softer than road gravel, but with less taste.

Such is my insomnia that I spent a full night staring at the ceiling and trying to create a mathematical equation to describe the above rule, complete with multipliers based upon the longitudinal and latitudinal distance from the Texas-Mexican border. I actually did get some numbers down, but the light of day –and a very cold shower– made it seem rather… uh… silly. However, at the time it seemed quite an important theorem I had stumbled across, and I wondered why nobody else had yet discovered it.

Bile… my favourite!

One of the more interesting quizzes I’ve done, but then again I’m a history nut: Your Medieval Personality Type. My results were:

You are a “bilious” Choleric, with an abundance of yellow bile (believed to have originated in the kidneys). Cholerics are characterized by the element of Fire, the season of Summer, early adulthood, the color fiery red, and the characteristics of “Hot” and “Dry.” Famous Cholerics include St. John the Baptist, St. Paul, and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

If you were living in the Age of Faith, perfect career choices for you would be Crusader (leader of the Crusades, of course), the knighthood, King, mayor, head of a guild, founder of a new religious order, or housewife or father with a well-organized, well-behaved brood, each of whom you expect to excel.

Of course, most of the above “career choices” would generally necessitate being born into the upper echelons of a tight class structure (a statistical improbability), but it’s an interesting quiz nonetheless. There’s a full page on each personality type, so you can suck in a bit of medieval “psychology” when you’re finished. There are also comparisons therein to historical figures and the Bible (hey, it’s a Catholic site).

Please, no comments on the implications of “Crusader”… it’s been done.