It was a dark and stormy night… okay, so most nights are dark… but not all of them are stormy.

His original line was “Man, it was dark and stormy during that storm last night… did I mention that it was dark?”

Here’s a piece I wrote for the CreateSpace blog about Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Lytton is best known for writing the worst opening for a novel ever.  You’ve probably heard it and didn’t even know it was bad.  It starts off, “It was a dark and stormy night;”  I explain why it’s such a bad opening in my post.  Here’s a little taste:

I have to be honest with you. I have seen much worse. I’ve most likely written much worse. I’ve studied the debate over this line for some time now, and while the line is hated by many, a lot of people don’t understand why it’s so bad. Lest you think that Bulwer-Lytton was a hack, the man was quite adroit at turning a phrase. He also originated “the pen is mightier than the sword” and “the almighty dollar,” among others. He was a prolific best-selling novelist during his day.

You can read the entire blog post here: The Night Was Stormy…and Dark, Too

The Takers Needs You

Enter The Takers in Amazon.com's Customer Selected Essential Books for Young Adults Sweepstakes

Want to help my young adult book The Takers get some national attention?  C’mon!  Say yes!  Okay, here’s the deal.  Amazon is having something called the Amazon.com Customer Selected Essential Books for Young Adults Sweepstakes.  You select a book that you think is essential for Young Adults and then you are entered into some sweepstakes where you can win a prize.  That’s it.  It’s free and everybody’s happy!

Here’s the link to the form for entry – BTW, the deadline is July 31, 2011! Amazon.com Customer Selected Essential Books for Young Adults List

Update: Someone told me they were having trouble with the name field on the form.  It didn’t work for them.  So I tested it out and got the same issue.  I tried putting my email address in the name field and it went through.  You also have to put your email address in the email field.  Sounds weird.  BTW – I didn’t cheat by voting for my own book.  I voted for one of my childhood favorites, Durango Street. 

DNA study reveals that there really is a “don’t give a shit” Honey Badger Gene

Honey Badger truly doesn't care!

A group of geneticists at the prestigious Walker Count Elfroy Genetics Research facility in Tinshyer, Scotland have been inundated with emails and phone calls over the past few weeks with inquiries regarding their study on Mellivora capensis, commonly known as the Honey Badger. A recent video on Youtube about the mustelid has created skyrocketing interest in the animal. The video, narrated by the online personality Randall, sprinkles facts throughout an otherwise comical commentary on the Honey Badger. Views on the video have surpassed 12 million and there doesn’t seem to be any slowdown in its popularity.

“I’ve seen it,” Dr. Wesley Kind said in a recent telephone interview when asked if he had the opportunity to watch the video. “It’s fairly accurate. The Mellivora capensis is a particularly vicious and fearless species.” Kind’s comments are particularly flattering since he is the team lead in the WCEGR study.

When asked if he could confirm the most famous takeaway line from the video, “Honey Badger don’t give a shit,” Kind chuckled. “I can confirm that it is absolutely true. They do not give a shit. In fact, we’ve isolated the gene that gives them that particular trait. We had been calling it Gene 237, but since the video we’ve taken to calling it the “Don’t Give a Shit Gene.”

Kind and his group have been working with the Welsh military to develop a drug that will help reduce anxiety among members of the Royal Welsh Marine Corps. “They are a skittish bunch,” Kind said. “The Honey Badger research has given us great hope that we can put some starch in their spines once and for all. If it proves successful, you may see Honey Badger soldiers popping up in militaries across the globe.”

Biscardi, The Ketchum Report and Conspiracy Theories

The man behind the 2008 Bigfoot in a freezer hoax

Is there a coordinated effort in the Tom Biscardi camp to try and discredit the Ketchum Report? And if not coordinated, is Biscardi manipulating associates into stoking the fires of doubt that surround the report? The question has to be asked because the man who will be forever linked to one of the most famous Bigfoot hoaxes has connections with three vocal critics of Melba Ketchum. Those critics, Bigfoot Hunter, Richard Stubstad and Tim Fasano, have all come out publicly in the last few weeks expressing mistrust of Dr. Ketchum and maligning her character either subtly or maliciously. They all seem to be unanimous in their views on Ketchum’s Nondisclosure Agreement in particular. The implication they present is that Ketchum is trying to unfairly control all the findings of the study and therefore reap all the profit (if any profit is to be had).

It’s unclear where Bigfoot Hunter and Fasano are getting their information. They are accusing Ketchum of some pretty serious unethical behavior without serving up much in the way of evidence. Stubstad is a horse of a different color. He was once involved with Ketchum’s study, but refused to sign what he considered a much more restrictive NDA. He, at least, has some connection to the actual project.

It is said the Stubstad delivered material to Ketchum that came from Tom Biscardi. Some have speculated that the material did not make the cut so to speak and Biscardi has felt left out of the ongoing study and therefore out of the ongoing discussion about what could be groundbreaking evidence in the arena in which he’s dedicated so much of his life. Rightly or wrongly, he has the reputation as a man who yearns for fame and attention at any cost. One only has to watch him in Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie to witness firsthand his skill at manipulating people. That’s why I am willing to give Fasano, Bigfoot Hunter and Stubstad the benefit of the doubt here. They may be mere pawns in Biscardi’s scheme.

If there even is a scheme. This is all speculation on my part. I have no inside sources. Unfortunately, Biscardi’s past behavior conjures up a swarm of suspicion and mistrust and sends onlookers head on into a messy world of conspiracy theories. I know one thing about the world of Bigfoot, you have to keep one eye on the lookout for the big fella and one eye on the lookout for Biscardi.

The Ketchum Report

What does it say?

The years in the making story concerning the collection and analysis of DNA from an unknown species of primate living in North America was dubbed the Erickson Project by someone in the cryptozoology community when word of it first popped up on the scene.  The name is a  misnomer.  It was called that because a man by the name of Adrian Erickson started purchasing land that was said to be habituation sites for these animals and financed a study.  While Erickson is an integral cog in the wheel, it turns out that he is just one of a number of researchers who have submitted DNA to Dr. Melba Ketchum, a veterinarian who owns her own DNA testing facility.  She is the real owner of the findings in this case given that her name is attached to the actual paper that has reportedly been written and submitted for peer review.  When I read things that are supposedly about the Erickson Project, they don’t have anything to do with Erickson’s study.  I’ve even made the error on this blog.  They have to do with Ketchum’s study.  That’s why I’m suggesting we start referring to this as the Ketchum Report and not the Erickson Project.

The reason I think it’s important to make this distinction is because Dr. Ketchum seems to have done her due diligence to approach this from a purely scientific stand point.  She is playing by the established scientific communities rules.  Namely, she’s refrained from making any public claims to the specific findings of the study.  She’s appeared on radio shows and a few blogs discussing the general topic, but she’s stopped short of making any overt statements as to what the study has actually revealed.  Her closest revelation as to the outcome of the study so far is that she now believes that such an animal does indeed exist.

This approach is rarely taken in the world of cryptozoology simply because the majority of mainstream science habitually plays it safe by studying the known and steering clear of the unknown.  A few brave souls will stick their necks out and examine the outrageous, but their heads are usually placed on pikes for all of academia to spat upon.  The bulk of cryptozoological research is left to the curious every-man who takes well-meaning enthusiasm and turns it into amateur science.  A few get it right.  Most don’t.

The ones who get it wrong will turn personal hypotheses and stretch it out until it becomes fact.  They will call press conferences and make unfounded claims.  They will take to the internet and report rumor and speculation as reality.  They will respond to skeptics with anger and venom.  They will turn their research into material for public fodder because they jumped the gun.

Dr. Ketchum’s decision to stick to accepted scientific procedure has frustrated the crypto-fanatics to the point of madness.  Messageboards and blogs are digging through hearsay and supposed inside sources to satisfy their growing anxiety. Here are samples of what you might read in various online groups.

  •  Why must it take so long?
  • Why is Ketchum dragging her feet?
  • What is she trying to hide?
  • If she had something, it would be front page news by now.

The list goes on. Patience has worn thin among these otherwise reasonable people.  They’re not bad people. They just want the ridicule to end.  Like it or not, the Ketchum Report has become a beacon of hope for many eyewitnesses, researchers, and believers.  They’ve made the assumption that she’s proven what they already know to be true, there is undeniably a bipedal North American Ape out there, even though Dr. Ketchum hasn’t openly said that.  She’s hinted that good news is coming and that people will be pleased with her findings, but those statements are open to a wide variety of interpretations.

I came across of a Facebook group administered by Rhettman A Mullis Jr. called Bigfootology.  Mullis wrote a reasoned piece about the insanity surrounding the pending release of the Ketchum Report.  He quoted a Sally Ramey about the scientific procedure that Ketchum is following.  Ramey has experience in the world of academia with the peer-review process and she shared it with Mullis’ group.  I post it here in its entirety, but I urge you to read the entire piece by clicking here: Clarifying the insanity of rumor and false information.

Summary: Peer-review process

by Sally Ramey on Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 4:58pm

Lots of people have recently been wondering about the process of publishing scientific papers. Here is the basic process, based on my experience doing PR in higher ed:

The researcher prepares a paper about their findings and submits it to a scientific journal for peer-review, which can take MONTHS. The paper is reviewed by a team of scientists with expertise in the discipline(s) involved in the researcher’s work. They decide if the research was conducted according to standards and practices accepted by the scientific community, and review the findings to see if they pass muster. It’s like a professor checking your work in college. If the review team has questions, they can ask the researcher to provide more info, run more tests, get someone else to run tests that replicate the work, etc. This can delay publication but it is sometimes necessary. ONLY after the review team is satisfied is the paper accepted for publication. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is the scientific community’s “stamp of approval” that the work is valid.

The journal must then figure out when to publish the paper. Some journals work weeks/months in advance, adding further delay. Some work faster, meaning that the paper might run within a few weeks. At some point, the researcher is notified that they have a “pub date.” In my experience, you often only know about three weeks out when your paper will publish. Once there is a pub date, the researcher (typically university-based) works with their campus PR folks and the journal editorial and PR staff to be sure that images are prepared for publication, news releases are written and reviewed, and everyone is prepared for the announcement.

If the news is HUGE, the researcher will be interviewed by the science media, under a strict embargo, the week before the pub date. Most journals publish on Fridays and most embargos lift on Thursday afternoons. The science media, journal PR folks and university PR folks all post their stories and news releases upon the lifting of the embargo. This is why big science news seems to be posted everywhere at once. – it actually is.

If the story is HUGE HUGE HUGE, any news conference would be held when the embargo lifts, unless the journal allows it to happen early due to scheduling conflicts – the journal drives the schedule – no one else. And NO ONE can publicly discuss the paper, its pub date, what journal is involved, the findings or other contents in advance of the embargo or the journal will not publish the paper. This preserves the credibility and sanctity of the peer-review process. Hope this info is helpful.

The point of this post is that restraint is in order here, by all of us.  We need to keep our heads and let the process play out.  We are all anxious for results but we have to relax and wait.  Rumors are just that.  Speculate and vent if you must, but never lose sight that is what you are doing, speculating.

Update: It’s clear that some have read this post as a slight to Mr. Erickson. That’s not the case. It wasn’t my intention to denigrate his reported contribution to the DNA study. My intention here was to try to establish that these findings are more than an alleged habituation study and documentary.  It is true that Erickson’s work and Ketchum’s work are linked together, but it’s clear that the DNA study is the most significant element in these developments and has a greater opportunity to change some minds.

 

Aussie dog bites shark

Those Australians are a different breed… even their dogs.  This video shows two dogs in Australia “herding” some sharks when one dog dives and apparently takes a bite out of one of the man eaters.  It strikes me as kind of negligent by the owner, but the dog does seem to enjoy it.

BTW – I may have just unfairly marked this as being Australia.  I’m just assuming so because the guy taping is an Aussie and there’s sharks and the people killed what looks like a Manatee for dinner.  It just screams Australia.