For Lo, the Winter is Past

Dr. Doyle's Blog

And of course, everything is blooming, and the landscape is full of road repair personnel.

This particular winter, which showed up early around here and then overstayed its welcome, and which included a three-week subzero deep freeze, was particularly hard on the local infrastructure. Which is to say, the north country is full of potholed roads and busted-up plumbing; also, porch roofs that were previously merely dilapidated emerged from the snow-time as disaster areas requiring demolition and replacement.

Fortunately, my new desktop computer system is now up and running (16G of RAM! Zoom-swoosh!), and my editor-hat has acquired a spiffy new plume: I’m now a paid-up member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

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Where I’ll Be Tomorrow

I’ll be at the Granite State Magicians’ benefit performance for the Merrimack (NH) CrimeLine.

 

Come out on Saturday, April 14th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to support the Merrimack Police K9 Program. Meet Dallas, Merrimack’s new K-9 officer and watch a demonstration at noon!

The Magic Show will be held at the American Legion Post 98 on Baboosic Lake Road.

$5 per person / $2.50 under 12 / $15 family max

Enter to win one of the many raffle prizes!

Hot Dogs, popcorn and soda for sale during the day!

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When First I Came to Town; or, Some Families are Like That

Dr. Doyle's Blog

One of my favorite folk songs is “Katy Cruel,” a cheerful ditty from the point of view of a young lady who has run completely out of [bleeps] to give:

Our Ms. Cruel comes from a distinguished (or maybe the right word is “notorious”) folkloric lineage.

There’s the Cruel Mother:

And the Cruel Father:

(Sorry, no video link here, just audio on the web page.  But he’s cruel, believe me.)

The Cruel Sister:

And the Cruel Brother:

Hell, if I had a family like that, I’d leave town and take to drink, too.

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Marching in Lancaster

Dr. Doyle's Blog

A couple of scenes from the Lancaster NH March For Our Lives (let it be noted that Lancaster, while the county seat for Coös County, only has a population of 3,507):

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“More Bears, Less Arms’

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“What Can You Hunt With an AR-15?”

Be it noted: I’m not against guns. Hell, I’m from Texas; my Daddy owned guns. And I live in a part of New Hampshire where the question “Got your deer yet?” isn’t an invitation to an act of performative masculinity, it’s a serious inquiry into the state of somebody’s winter larder. Fifty or sixty pounds of venison in the freezer is a not-inconsiderable number of meals you don’t have to pay for at the local grocery. If you want to shoot a deer with a proper deer rifle during the proper hunting season while in the possession of a proper hunting license, I’m right there with you, and…

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A Sonnet

While streaking in my rocket ship through space,
Galactic empires seeking to destroy,
Subsonic signals hailed me with “Ahoy!
O spaceman launched from secret lunar base!
Turn back your craft at once!”  Sour was my face.
Switched off the signal; turned then to deploy
My proton missiles. With those I’d annoy
The surreptitious foes who’d marked my place.
When of a sudden, standing at my side,
A bearded wizard with a staff of flame
First tripped me, then, whilst stroking his goatee,
Gazed downward, as he called me by my name.
Quoth he, “Soft! Stay thy vaunted techno-pride:
This is not Sci-fi but a Fantasy.”

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Today’s Bit of Linguistic Amusement

Dr. Doyle's Blog

From Texas Monthly online, a discussion of the phrase “fair to middlin’” (as in, “How’re you doin’?” “Oh, fair to middlin’ – can’t complain”), which wanders through the Texas cotton patch, the Texas oil patch, cotton-grading systems in Liverpool and cotton mills in Lancashire, the rivalry between Midland and Odessa, and the transatlantic popularity of country music.

This sort of thing is, as they say, my jam.

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‘Tis the Season

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Christmas Trees.jpg

December 21st — nineteen minutes old as I type this – is the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, and then the sun comes back.  At least, it always has so far,† and we celebrate its return with gifts and lights and feasting in multiple traditions.

This is also the season for my annual Winter Holiday Gift Sale, where you can purchase a gift certificate good for one line-edit and critique of a full-length novel, as a seasonal present for the writer in your life (even if that writer is you!), at the reduced holiday rate of $1000 for a standard-weight novel.  The gift comes with a printable PDF gift certificate, suitable for printing out and wrapping up in a box or envelope for holiday presentation, and can be redeemed at the time of the recipient’s choice. For more information on what I do and how I work, you can read my…

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The Hill Case — Part 5

What We Know And How We Know It, Part 5.

What We Know:  Betty and Barney Misidentified the Jack O’Lantern Resort as a Flying Saucer

How We Know It:

The Jack O’Lantern Resort has been located on US 3 in Woodstock, NH, since the 1940s.  Its logo is a large, stylized jack o’lantern.  In the 1960s there was a billboard down along the road, and a large, lighted jack o’lantern on the roof of the main building.

The next bit isn’t actual knowledge on my part.  This is supposition, but it’s far more solid than the supposition that Betty and Barney were abducted by space aliens, because we know that the Jack O’Lantern existed (and still exists) but the “flying saucer” didn’t.  In Fuller’s book we read, “Both recalled very faintly a large, luminous moon-shape, which seemed to be touching the road, sitting on end under some pines.”  That could be a description of the billboard, as their headlights swept momentarily across it.

Jack O'Lantern Resort, Woodstock, NH, 1960s

The jack o’lantern on top of the Jack O’Lantern Resort

Betty and Barney were already thinking of the “flying saucer” as a glowing red-orange orb, ever since they misidentified the moon as a flying saucer back there by the Old Man of the Mountain.  So when they saw another red-orange orb, it became the same flying saucer in their minds.  A little bit farther on, they came to a place where the red-orange glowing orb of the jack o’lantern on top of the motel came in view.   This too became the same flying saucer in their memories.  It is my belief that this was where they stopped the car and ran around an otherwise empty field, where they looked with binoculars into the jack o’lantern’s eyes and mouth and called them windows, and all the other garish things they remembered the next day.  They conflated the memory of this object with the memory of the moon that they had seen back a few miles farther north in Franconia. When, some weeks or months later, they tried to find in daylight the place where they had stopped at night, they missed it.

In between sighting the moon in Franconia, and sighting the Jack O’Lantern Resort in Woodstock, was the portion where the flying saucer flew directly above them.  They didn’t see this, of course – the car roof was in the way – rather they believed that it must be true: they could no longer see the lights in the sky (the moon had set, the beacon was obscured by the mountain).  But they still felt they were being watched and followed (the paranoia due to sleep deprivation).  So, where was the flying saucer?  By elimination it had to be directly above them.

After the sighting of the Jack O’Lantern Resort (where “…Barney was near hysteria. He jammed the car into first gear, spurted off down the road, shouting that he was sure they were going to be captured…”) they had no more experiences with strange lights (until the recovered memory sessions over a year later).  May I suggest that Barney wasn’t “near” hysteria:  he was all the way there. Even so, even then, he still didn’t believe they had seen a flying saucer: “In those first few moments of consciousness, Betty remembers faintly saying to her husband, ‘Now do you believe in flying saucers?’ And he recalls answering: ‘Don’t be ridiculous. Of course not.’”

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The Hill Case — Part 4

What We Know and How We Know It, Part 4

What We Know: Betty and Barney misidentified the moon as a flying saucer.

How we know it: A few minutes after stopping at the foot of Cannon Mountain and about a mile and a half south of the place where Betty and Barney observed their UFO and the lights on the tramway (which we now know was the beacon on the lookout tower on Cannon Mountain and the tramway), the UFO vanished behind the mountain at the same moment the tramway station lights vanished.  Betty supposed that the tramway lights had been suddenly switched off, but, in fact, they were hidden at this point by the shoulder of the mountain, as was the beacon.  The Hills supposed their UFO was actually flying and thus had flown to a different location.  But where had it flown to?  Moments later, as they passed the south edge of the cliff where the Old Man of the Mountain rock formation was located and they had a clear view of the western sky, they saw their flying saucer again, this time as a red-orange glowing orb the size of a dinner plate.

The moon illusion -- a setting moon.

A setting moon

That is to say, they looked in the direction of moon set, and saw something that looked just like the setting moon.

Some may object that the moon is not, in fact, the size of a dinner plate. Due to the well-known Moon Illusion (an optical illusion that has been noted and described since antiquity—Google it) in which the moon looks larger the nearer it gets to the horizon, the setting moon can certainly appear to be the size of a dinner plate.  A dinner plate is nothing: It can appear to be the size of a wagon wheel.

Why were the Hills unable to recognize the moon, an object they were perfectly familiar with and had been seeing all their lives? A) They were heavily fatigued, and B) they were scared out of their wits.

The Hills expected to see a flying saucer, so they perceived one, so they remembered one.  We, knowing that it was really the moon, can calculate from the known time of moon set that they had already lost at least 30 minutes and possibly an hour of the famous missing two hours in their interrupted journey, long before their supposed abduction.  Nor is this loss of time surprising:  they had stopped at various places along the road to walk the dog and to observe the mysterious (to them) light in the sky, and they reported deliberately driving slowly in order to continue to observe that light during portions of their trip.

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The Hill Case — Part 3

What We Know and How We Know It, Part 3

What we know: Betty and Barney misidentified the aircraft warning light on the top of Cannon Mountain as a flying saucer, continued.

How we know it:

The first time Betty and Barney observed the UFO was when their car crested the shoulder of Mount Prospect just south of Lancaster. The first time the aircraft warning light on Cannon Mountain is visible from US 3 south (the road Betty and Barney were driving), is when the road crests the shoulder of Mount Prospect just south of Lancaster.

Looking south on US Route 3 at Mt. Prospect in Lancaster NH

Cresting the shoulder of Mt. Prospect, Lancaster, NH. In 1961 this would have been two lanes and the parking area on the right would have been missing. This is the first point where the light on the lookout tower on Cannon Mountain is visible — and the first point where Betty and Barney Hill saw their UFO.

The UFO first appeared as a “shooting star that fell up.”  As soon as US 3 crests the shoulder of Mount Prospect, the road plunges steeply down a 9% grade for the next half mile; the beacon on Cannon Mountain subjectively appears to move straight up.

The UFO appeared first on one side of the road, then the other, at various altitudes.  The beacon on Cannon Mountain appears first on one side of the road, then the other, at various altitudes.

The UFO appeared to get larger, brighter, and closer as the Hills continued their trip.  The beacon on Cannon Mountain objectively is getting larger, brighter, and closer as one drives south toward Franconia Notch.

In Franconia Notch the UFO passed up the right side of the car.  The beacon on Cannon Mountain appears to pass up the right side of a car traveling south through the notch.

These, by themselves, even without the Hills’ positive identification of the beacon as a UFO (see Part 2), prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the UFO was actually the beacon on Cannon Mountain.

Taken together, the one-to-one mapping between the UFO and the beacon, and the Hills’ identification of the beacon as the UFO when they reached Franconia Notch, the conclusion is inescapable: the Hills mistook the beacon on Cannon Mountain for a flying saucer.  The true believers have absolutely no wiggle room.

Here is the question that anyone who thinks Betty and Barney saw a flying saucer  must answer: If what they saw was really a flying saucer where was the Cannon Mountain light that whole time?


A note here on observation and memory:  The human mind isn’t a video recorder.   (See, e.g. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/what-experts-wish-you-knew-about-false-memories/  ) There is no such thing a continuous memory; if there were no one would ever lose their car keys.  Short-term memory stores the Good Parts edition, and only parts of that are moved to long-term memory.

What we see is mediated through what we expect to what we perceive. What we perceive is what we remember.  The Hills expected to see a flying saucer, therefore what they perceived was a flying saucer, and what they remembered was a flying saucer.  It’s important to note that Betty was already a believer in flying saucers even before this event, and she spent a good part of the later portions of the trip trying to convince Barney that what they were seeing was a flying saucer.   False memories are remarkably easy to implant.  See: http://science.time.com/2013/11/19/remember-that-no-you-dont-study-shows-false-memories-afflict-us-all/

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