Friday, 31 January 2020

Five Aliens Among Us

Five Aliens Living Among Us
Friday Five

Some people believe that aliens - like the truth - are out there. Some believe they have already arrived, be it sucking the blood out of cows, abducting suitably fertile women, or languishing in warehouses at secret US military bases. But some people go one step further -

Aliens already live among us.

They look like us, sound like us, and are all but indistinguishable from the rest of the population. Unless, of course, you're in the know. So here are five of the more famous alleged aliens.

#5. Orthon

George Adamski was - and is - a real Marmite figure. He is also the guy who really got the whole 'contactee' movement going in the 1950s. His background involved setting up his own church - allegedly for the legal right to produce his own wine during prohibition - and then letting people assume his camp was connected to the Palomar Observatory and that he himself had earned the title of 'Professor' legitimately.

In addition to a famous (and famously debunked) 1952 photograph of a UFO, Adamski is perhaps best known for his contact with the so-called 'Nordic' aliens. These Nordics hailed from Venus, had long blond hair, blue eyes, and communicated via telepathy. They also had weird names like Orthon and the desire to take randomers on trips around the Solar System.

Regardless of whether or not you believe, Adamski shaped much of the extraterrestrial discourse over the next few decades. He even got his own comic book! For more on Adamski's life and teachings, check out The Adamski Case online.


#4. Amicizia

If you've not heard of the Amicizia case you've been missing out on one hell of a story!

Italian for 'Friendship', the Amicizia case began back in 1956 when a kind of federation of alien races - the 'W56' - made contact with various individuals in Italy. These aliens wanted to help us help ourselves. Or, in other words, had the usual mission of stopping us from blowing our planet up before we had chance to evolve past the need for petty violence. Where the W56 differ from other contact tales is in their assertion that they're involved in their own space wars.

Not only are they busy fighting other races, they're also keeping us safe from the 'CTR' - a race created as a (failed) experiment by the W56. Whatever. The one thing we can be sure of is that to keep battling, the well-to-do Italians they contacted needed to keep bankrolling them. Stefano Breccia, university professor and contactee, interviewed around 80 other contactees for his books on the subject and revealed the W56 - whoever they are and whatever their origins - have been provided with industrial quantities of strontium, barium nitrate, and fruit which they allegedly turned into green pills that provided 48 hours sustenance.

And money. Obviously.

There are a few photographs purporting to be of members of the W56, like this one of an alien supposedly standing 10 foot tall, taken by historian Bruno Sammaciccia:


#3. Omnec Onec

Born on the astral plane of Venus, Omnec Onec grew up as Sheila Gipson - an American girl whose body she took over at age of seven after the 'real' Sheila died in a bus accident in 1955. Although she told nobody about the switch while a child, she wrote up her story in the 1960s and in 1991 finally published her autobiography From Venus I Came. Omnec shared all kinds of revelations, from her spiritual teachings to the fact that inventor Nikola Tesla was actually a Venusian. (There's a whole website dedicated to that theory HERE.)

The whole spiritual angle, and Omnec's connection with religious group Eckankar, may be fodder for incredulity but there seems no doubt that Omnec and those close to her truly believe in her otherworldly origins.

Omnec Onec

#2. Valiant Thor

Dr. Frank E. Stranges, an evangelical minister and founder of NICUFO (National Investigations Committee on Unidentified Flying Objects), introduced the world to Thor in his 1967 book Stranger at the Pentagon. In 1959, so he claimed, Stranges met Val - an alien from Venus who was working as an advisor to Eisenhower at the Pentagon. Val came to Earth aboard the VICTOR ONE on March 6th 1957, alongside fellow Venusians: Jill, Taniya, and his brother Donn. They were on a three year mission to ensure Earth didn't obliterate itself through nuclear testing.

Stranges related various details about the aliens and their homeworld. They lived in subterranean communities on Venus, and had evolved far past the point of war and commerce - though not legible handwriting, if these documents from Raymond Keller are to be believed. Val had no fingerprints and told Stranges that humans were given them after their fall in the Garden of Eden, before going on to explain: "I know that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of yours and everyone else’s faith. He today has assumed His rightful position as the ruler of the universe and is preparing a place and a time for all who are called by His Name to ascend far above the clouds to where His Power and Authority shall never again be disputed."

Former US government geologist and engineer Philip Schneider also had an encounter with Val, according to a lecture he gave in May 1995. Except his Val bore little resemblance to Stranges'. He had six fingers and toes, an IQ of 1200, one giant lung, copper oxide blood like an octopus, and had been working with the US government since 1937. He was also very blond - Schneider presented a photograph of this Val, sitting near Scheider's father, Oscar, during the Final Briefing on the USS Eldridge in 1943. Scheider might have gone on to say more about Val, but was found dead in January 1996 (supposedly suicide, though his wife claimed murder).

The evidence Stranges presented primarily consisted of various photographs of Val and his crewmates, taken by August C. Roberts during a Flying Saucer Club meeting (13/07/1958) at High Bridge - the New Jersey farm belonging to Howard Menger. In the colourised picture below we see Jill, Donn, and Val:

Valiant Thor
More photo links: one - two - three - four - five - six.

#1. Dolores Barrios

In August 1954 there was a UFO conference on Mount Palomar - Adamski's stomping ground - where the man himself presented a painting of Orthon and told over 1,000 attendees that Venusians were already living among us. When the talks wound down it didn't take long for a rumour to spread that three exotic looking attendees were actually visitors from outer space.

Someone, history doesn't seem to have recorded who, asked them:

"Are you or are you not Venusians?"
"No." (The woman said with a calm smile. So says the internet.)
"Why are you here?
"Because we are interested in this subject."
"Do you believe in flying saucers?"
"Is it true that, as Mr. Adamski says, that they come from Venus?"
"Yes. They are from Venus."

Donald Morand and Bill Jackmart

Brazilian journalist João Martins, writing for O Cruzeiro magazine, took the opportunity to interview them, learning that the woman was a dress designer named Dolores Barrios and her two male companions were musicians named Donald Morand and Bill Jackmart. All three of them lived in Manhattan Beach, California, and although they declined to have their photographs taken, they went on to attend the second day of the conference and ended up giving in and posing before it was over.

Dolores Barrios Full LengthDolores Barrios

What I find most interesting about these cases is that most of these alleged aliens have never been identified - some of them don't even have any contenders. Compare this to, say, Billy Meier's photographs of the aliens Asket and Nera. (Or, you know, Dean Martin Variety Show dancers Michelle DellaFave and Susan Lund.) It is harder to find regular Joes as opposed to performers on national television, sure, but some of the distinctive looking individuals listed here would likely still have turned heads and attracted attention...

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Friday Five

Thursday, 30 January 2020

250 Free Mail Order Catalogues

250 Free Mail Order Catalogues

Catalogues are great craft supplies - they're perfect for drawing references, collage material, creating all kinds of miniatures (eg. paper packs, jigsaws), general inspiration, and so much more. So, to get you started, here are 250 places offering to send you free catalogues in the post:

(Given the length of the list and the high likelihood of link breakage, I've just listed the companies. A quick google will bring up their request forms.)

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Pen, Ysgwyddau, Coesau, Traed

Pen, Ysgwyddau, Coesau, Traed - Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in Welsh. :)

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Welsh Language / Iaith Cymraeg

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Full Council - January 2020

Council Business

It's actually our second meeting of the year, after the deferred extraordinary meeting on homelessness (click for webcast) was held on the 9th. The webcast for today's meeting is HERE. Alternatively, read on for a quick account of what happened...

#1. Attendance

#2. Apologies for Absence

#3. Declarations of Interest

#4. Confirmation of Council Minutes - 22/10/2019 and 09/01/2020

#5. Updates on Actions

#6. Receipt of Petitions (N/A)

#7. Public Question Time (N/A)

#8. Announcements from the Leader or Chief Executive

Cllr Hunt thanked those who attended the civic Holocaust Memorial Day service, and commemorated the life of former Cllr Margaret Pead.

#9. Council Tax Reduction Scheme

This is an annual issue whereby TCBC needs to recommit to operating its own Council Tax Reduction Scheme, allowing more flexibility than the standard scheme which would become the default if this wasn't done. The scheme is part funded by Welsh Government, then TCBC tops it up as part of the council's operational budget. For more information and to find out if you're eligible check out THIS page from the Benefits team.

#10. Petition To Stop Spraying Our Towns With Glyphosate

Council received a public petition back in September 2019 asking that TCBC "stop spraying our towns with probable cancer causing glyphosate." Today Council needed to agree a response and policy direction; the recommendation from officers was to continue using glyphosate but keep it under review to allow action as and when new research / best practice guidance becomes available.

This was the item I was dreading today because I was expecting protesters and disruption from the public gallery. I mean, it's one thing to tell a fellow councillor to sit down and be quiet, but it feels really different having to do with it a member of the public! As usual I was getting worked up about nothing because the sole person in the public gallery today was a reporter from the Argus.

Anyway, I had already determined that I would take the debate for as long as it went because, ultimately, it is an issue with a lot of public interest and I didn't want people to go away feeling like I'd shut down discussion or not allowed them to bring amendments. Ultimately there were three amendments, the first submitted by Cllr Haynes and replacing 13.1 with:

"That Council agrees to cease using glyphosate based products for weed control in Torfaen within the next 6 months and that a letter advising of this be sent to the petitioner."

Cllr Haynes then adopted a further amendment by Cllr O'Connell to cover the problem of Japanese knotweed:

"That Council agrees to cease using sprayed glyphosate based products for weed control in Torfaen, with the exception of direct injection to Japanese knotweed, within the next 6 months and that a letter advising of this be sent to the petitioner."

A recorded vote was taken on this one, with it falling due to lack of support.

Cllr Bevan then put forward another amendment, hoping to overcome some of the problems around financially viable alternatives:

"That Council agrees the continued use of glyphosate based products for weed control in Torfaen, other than in high public footfall areas, whilst monitoring the development of alternatives for the future, and that a letter advising of this be sent to the petitioner."

Again, a recorded vote was taken and, although garnering more support, this amendment also fell. We then took a regular vote (by show of hands) on the original recommendations from officers which passed.

To be honest, I was quite swayed by Cllr Bevan's amendment and privately debated whether to break whip on the issue. At the end of the day though, that would have been to appease public anxieties rather than because of any personally held convictions on glyphosate. I've yet to see any convincing evidence for the stuff to be considered a probable carcinogen, especially not at the levels we use it (c. 150 - 300 times less concentrated than in the studies shared by the petition group). And, even if there was, it doesn't necessarily mean a total ban would be or even should be desirable - our schools are still serving processed meat despite the World Health Organisation labelling it a proven carcinogen, for example, just as we're still using all manner of toxic chemicals to clean floors and keep bathrooms hygenic.

So, yeah, at this point continual review seems the most sensible way forward.

#11. Solar Farm: Capital Funding

This item refers to a project that has been in the planning stage for some time, with the aim of making positive use of the former Ty Coch landfill site in Cwmbran - a site so contaminated even Japanese knotweed won't grow in parts of it. Fiscally conservative estimates suggest the solar farm would provide an annual return of £835,000 over its 35 year lifespan, in addition to reducing grid emissions by 48,180 tCO2 over the same period. Some councillors expressed concern about the financial risks, with officers confirming that should the project start losing the council money it would go back to Cabinet for further consideration of its future.

There were a few objections, but Council agreed to provide the project with capital funding to the tune of £2.45 million so the procurement process could get underway. Here's an excerpt from the 2018 Design and Access Scheme to give an idea of scale:

Ty Coch Landfill Site Solar Farm

#12. Political Balance, Committee Chairs and Membership of Committees

Cllr O'Connel has left the Conservative group to become a Non-Aligned Independent, which changes the political balance of council committees. This item simply laid out the personnel changes to membership. Cllr Clark advised Council he would write to Welsh Govt to express concern about the rule barring more than one councillor from the same electoral ward sitting on planning committee, as the end result is continual vacancies on the committee despite numerous people being willing to fill them.

#13. Cardiff Capital Region City Deal - Joint Overview and Scrutiny Commmittee

This item dealt with committee membership: our previous representative on the committee, Cllr Jo Gauden, is now an executive member so her place was taken by Cllr Veronica Crick.

#14. Motions on Notice (N/A)

#15. Members' Question Time

Cllr Slade couldn't make today's meeting so his questions were deferred, leaving two questions from Cllr David Thomas. The first asked Cllr Daniels, as executive member for Adult Services & Housing, whether Torfaen has considered an outdoor 'safe space' for rough sleepers. Cllr Daniels reiterated the information given at the extraordinary council meeting a couple of weeks ago - namely, TCBC's goal is to stop rough sleeping so outdoor provision isn't the way forward. Instead the first of two dedicated houses which will provide eight supported tenancy places has just opened its doors.

Cllr Thomas' second question asked Cllr Cross, as executive member for Environment, whether the street lights on Cwmbran Drive could be turned on to allay fears about the potential for RTAs. Cllr Cross declined and pointed out that there has only been one recorded accident on Cwmbran Drive since 2009, vs. multiple along other, well lit, sections of the highway.

#16. Cabinet Decisions - 19/11/2019 and 07/01/2020

These were noted.

#17. Exclusion of the Press and Public

As is customary, the webcast was switched off and the press and public were excluded from the chamber for the confidential item following.

#18. Outcome of Complaint Under Local Resolution Protocol

The outcome was noted.

#19. Date and Time of Next Meeting - 10am, 03/03/2020

If anybody reading wants to come along to a meeting but feels a bit nervous, please feel free to get in touch. I am more than happy to show you around and tell you how it all works. :)

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Council Business Explained

Monday, 27 January 2020

Big Beautiful Dolls

Big Beautiful Dolls

The Big Beautiful Doll Company burst onto the scene back in 1999 with the first line of voluptuous fashion dolls. BBD, created by Georgette Taylor and Audrey Bell-Kearney, quickly garnered media attention and one of their dolls, Dasia, was nominated for the 2002 Doll Award of Excellence.

In 2014 Georgette Taylor began talking about plans to re-release the dolls, as in this guest post at Black Doll Collecting. By the end of 2015 Georgette had set up the I AM Beautiful Doll Company, and showcased the prototype for new doll Nikia to great acclaim at the Detroit Doll Show.

Georgette Taylor and Nikia Doll
Nikia Doll

'Body Art' Nikia was initially planned to be the first of a whole line of dolls with gorgeous lingerie. Nikia would be a limited edition of 600, with an estimated shipping date of May 2016. New-old stock of the original three dolls was also offered up for sale for $38 plus shipping, and pre-orders opened for new casts and Nikia, providing they hit at least 300 orders. Sadly that threshold wasn't reached and BBD disappeared from the doll scene once again.

In 2017 however there was a self-published book released by Audrey Bell-Kearney, Dasia: The Story Of A Big Beautiful Doll: The First Plus-Size Fashion Doll.

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Sunday, 26 January 2020

This Week - 26/01/2020

Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows

It's been fairly up and down this week. It was Anthony's aunt's funeral on Monday which was really sad. We had only seen her a few days before and it still doesn't seem quite possible.

In work I had a Public Service Board Scrutiny meeting and a bunch of party stuff. I was supposed to be going through the agenda ready for Children and Young People Committee but, it turns out, most of the data we want to use is embargoed until the end of January so we've had to postpone it.

On Tuesday I went into school to see how the mindfulness champion scheme has been getting on. It's been a cluster project with a couple of other local primaries and Croesyceiliog Comprehensive, and it's really great to see more focus on resilience with kids. I mean, it's all well and good to leave school with good paper grades, but if you can't cope with the workplace then the education system has still failed you imo.

There was a public info meeting on Northville underpass too. I couldn't make it because I was in other meetings, but apparently there was pushback over the lack of consultation. Ideally it would have gone through the process better but, the way things have turned out (basically if they widen it the road will likely collapse), I think it's just about getting the hell on with it. I know some people think a bridge going over would be better but, realistically, imagine how big it would have to be to have a disability compliant ramp - and how it would just become another congregation point with the ability to cause RTAs...

Deal of the Week -

20% off at ParcelGo with promo code referral link

Another full week of posts! I reviewed Small Wonders Miniatures and Cashback Earners, posted a lyric sheet for Buwch Goch Gota, and an A-Z of My Favourite Britcoms for World Belly Laugh Day. I also wrote an opinion piece on Women in the Workplace inspired by the tradwives story that went viral last week - basically, half of all working age women were in paid employment in 1959 - and a 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Gaia Online.

The new Tots100 update came out on Friday too and I was really (pleasantly) surprised to find I'd gone up 20+ places to #56. It'll probably slip down a bit over the next few days, but it's by far my best result yet.

Song of the Week -

Punk Rock Songs - Patent Pending

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This Week - Weekly Overviews

Saturday, 25 January 2020

30 Days of Gaia Online

30 Days of Gaia Online Blogging Challenge

Gaia Online is like a huge plodding diplodocus - a sprawling forum based online hangout which launched way back in the dark ages of 2003. I signed up not long afterwards and, though I go AWOL for months at a time, I always end up returning to collect more pixel items and dress up my avatar.

Some of the features are about to become totally defunct because of the upcoming withdrawal of support for flash, but Gaia is so massive there is still tons of stuff to do from decorating your house to fishing to word games. All for nothing! If you're a member - or intrigued enough to sign up - feel free to add me at babiafi.

#01. Current Avatar

#02. How Did You Hear About Gaia?

Through a penpal I had at the time in the USA. We were both into anime and fandom, and she suggested I check it out so we could use the site's messaging system. I know it was a pretty big thing in the States for a while, and you could buy cash top up cards in shops and stuff, but I never personally knew anyone in the UK who was a member - except for my younger brother who heard about it from me.

#03. Recreate An Early Avatar

I'm going to have to search through my old hard drive for some really early saved pics, but for now here are a few ranging from 2010 to 2016:

#04. When Did You Sign Up?

I set up my first account on 18/08/2004, so I'd have just turned sixteen.

#05. Your Kindred Team

They're in training. ♥️

#06. Easter Avatar

#07. Your House

Flash is on its deathbed but there's still time to grab a screenshot!

House on Gaia Online

#08. Favourite Event

Fashion Fray was awesome, and I always love the 'donate x items' type events as it's the one of the only times I actually clear some of the junk out of my inventory.

#09. Favourite Mini Game

They need to bring back Switchem!

Switchem from Gaia Online

#10. Show Us Your Mule

I use my original account as a mule, and I have another permanently set to Paw.


#11. Halloween Avatar

#12. Story Behind Your Username

My main account - babiafi - is just to match all my blog and social media stuff. My first account was Aeronwyn because I always used Welsh names at the time; you were almost guaranteed not to have to add numbers after it. (This was approaching 20 years ago, to be fair!)

#13. Paw Avatar

(Or Human if you're usually Paw!)

#14. Have You Ever Bought GCash?

Yeah, I've probably spent about £150 over the years... which sounds a lot until you realise that averages out at £10 per annum. That's what I like about Gaia though; you can pay to play, but you certainly don't need to in order to have a good experience.

#15. Favourite Item

Not sure it's my favourite, but I've always wanted the Skittles Rainbow Jacket. It goes for ridiculous amounts on the MP though so it'll just remain a permanent fixture on my wishlist.

#16. Christmas Avatar

#17. Your Car

Car on Gaia Online

#18. Where Do You Hang Out?

The marketplace. I like to collect items, and enough of them to be able to use every pose of the item...

#19. Favourite NPC

President Diedrich!

Diedrich Kindred from Gaia Online

#20. How Big Is Your Inventory?

I've got 54,739 items on my main account, I'm not sure how that stacks up against the average.

#21. Cosplay Avatar

#22. Favourite Forum

Gaia Guides and Resources.

#23. Most Mourned Feature

I'm still not over Resort World shutting down in, like, 2013. I built that island with my own sweat, blood, and tears!

Resort World on Gaia Online

#24. zOMG! or Lake Kindred?

It's probably sacrilege, but Lake Kindred. It has all the collecting and levelling up elements I love.

#25. Greatest Achievement?

Probably 'Perfect Attendance', earned by logging in for 180 consecutive days. That's real commitment in my book! :) I've got 22,225 achievement points on my main account, but I've missed a lot of the events in recent years so I don't think it's too bad.

#26. Favourite Colour Scheme


#27. Your Aquarium

Gaia Online Aquarium

#28. Do You Use The Go Gaia App?

Nope. I do use the Gaia Upgrade browser extension though for the one click daily reward collect, the quick dumpster dive, and the colour coded items owned (complete with how many) on the marketplace.

#29. Sell, Trash, or Donate?

I never trash anything - if it's not worth much I just donate it to Dumpster Dive. From the limited time I spend on GCD (General Community Discussion) this is a no-no but whatever. I love the Dumpster Dive no matter what random junk comes out of it. Same with all the freebies, tbh, I don't think I'll ever understand the people who complain about daily freebies at Ask The Staff, etc.

Gaia Online Dumpster Dive

#30. Dream Avatar

I'm way too fickle to have just one to aspire to!

30 Days of Gaia Online Blogging Challenge

#01 - Current Avatar
#02 - How Did You Hear About Gaia?
#03 - Recreate An Early Avatar
#04 - When Did You Sign Up?
#05 - Your Kindred Team
#06 - Easter Avatar
#07 - Your House
#08 - Favourite Event
#09 - Favourite Mini Game
#10 - Show Us Your Mule
#11 - Halloween Avatar
#12 - Story Behind Your Username
#13 - Paw Avatar
#14 - Have You Ever Bought GCash?
#15 - Favourite Item
#16 - Christmas Avatar
#17 - Your Car
#18 - Where Do You Hang Out?
#19 - Favourite NPC
#20 - How Big Is Your Inventory?
#21 - Cosplay Avatar
#22 - Favourite Forum
#23 - Most Mourned Feature
#24 - zOMG! or Lake Kindred?
#25 - Greatest Achievement?
#26 - Favourite Colour Scheme
#27 - Your Aquarium
#28 - Do You Use The Go Gaia App?
#29 - Sell, Trash, or Donate?
#30 - Dream Avatar

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