Categories for Nonsense

August 30, 2015

The policeman, the psychic and the journalist  

According to this story in the Independent, The College of Policing have made the suggestion that police detectives should consult with psychics in missing persons cases.

The advice quickly cancels itself out. It should not “become a distraction to the overall investigation and search strategy unless it can be verified,” and “accredited successes” should be taken into account.

Eventually my bullshit detector was triggered, and I went to look at the website of the College of Policing.

There’s just one paragraph on the topic in a long document. And this is it.

” Psychics

High-profile missing person investigations nearly always attract the interest of psychics and others, such as witches and clairvoyants, stating that they possess extrasensory perception. Any information received from psychics should be evaluated in the context of the case, and should never become a distraction to the overall investigation and search strategy unless it can be verified. These contacts usually come from well-intentioned people, but the motive of the individual should always be ascertained, especially where financial gain is included. The person’s methods should be asked for, including the circumstances in which they received the information and any accredited successes.”

In context, that seems much more reasonable, doesn’t it? Fundamentally it’s saying don’t be distracted by information from psychics. But the part about the motive for getting involved in the case, and the potential for financial gain and the circumstances they receieved the information – I can very easily imagine that these are questions the police should follow up.

I’m interested in the idea of accredited successes. Have there ever been any genuine cases of psychics finding missing people?

I’m afraid I even get frustrated with psychic phenomena in mystery and crime fiction, although I will make the exception for Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins novels, which are so thoroughly enjoyable I don’t mind the intrusion of the supernatural.   I would love to read a good crime novel about a fraudulent psychic though. Any recommendations welcome.  Or perhaps I will one day write one myself.


Sources –

Independent – Advice from College of Policing concerning missing persons cases.

The College of Policing Consultation

August 4, 2015

Online toys for writers  

It’s entirely possible I might be procrastinating again, but anything that keeps the accounts at bay for another hour or two must be a Good Thing.

So which of us could resist playing with the latest language analysis tool? Here it is – the IBM Watson Personality Insights Service

From the website –

The IBM Watson Personality Insights service uses linguistic analytics to extract a spectrum of cognitive and social characteristics from the text data that a person generates through blogs, tweets, forum posts, and more.

So I selected a huge chunk of text from my novel-in-progress and pasted it into the text box and pressed analyse, wondering if the results would say something about me, the writer – or about Alice, my narrator.

And this is what the machine said…

You are genial.

You are calm-seeking: you prefer activities that are quiet, calm, and safe. You are confident: you are hard to embarrass and are self-confident most of the time. And you are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them.

You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of well-being.

You are relatively unconcerned with achieving success: you make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents. You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you.

Well, that’s not Alice – certainly at the beginning of the novel she’s pretty much the opposite of self confident and in fact the section I analysed included a panic attack.  An interesting result.

Still it reminded me of that other fun tool, I Write Like, which analyses your writing and compares it to the writing of a whole host of well known writers. I’ve had results in the past ranging from Dan Brown to Margaret Atwood, but hadn’t tried the new novel yet.

So I pasted the same selection from my novel in there and my result was –

I’m not having much trouble in sticking to my follies and nonsense theme so far, am I?

Quietly bemused and no wiser about my novel, I guess it’s time to start working on the accounts…. But if you would be kind enough to tempt me away from them, please do try the tools out on your own writing and share the results.