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Old 25.01.2011, 05:00
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Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

.
So there we were, Mrs Jeem and myself, having a Quiet Night In, last Saturday.

Twas so, because we had had a Loud Night Out the night before, which had continued into the wee hours and then the not-so-wee hours - that's one of the occupational hazards of celebrating Burns' Night in Scotland, but once must shoulder one's load, as it were.

Now, some of you here on EF know either me or Mrs Jeem, or indeed both of us. I think it's fair to say that those who do know us would regard us as pretty sensible people with both our feet firmly on the ground.

(Past flying adventures excepted, of course. (Although, to be fair, if one considers the biggest of those exploits, both feet were firmly on the ground. (Which was rather unfortunate since one was actually expecting (and, indeed, very much wanting and trying very hard to keep) both feet and indeed all my other appendages, and all those of everyone present, firmly in the air at that juncture. Anyway, my continuing apologies to all you British taxpayers about that little "hiccup", for want of a better word; my thanks also for your generosity of spirit and purse. And on the positive side, I generated a lot of work for a lot of people for a long time, so one could actually regard it less as a bad screwup and more as a very successful job-creation scheme.)))

Be that as it may, there we were, two sensible people, having our Quiet Night In.

At some point in the middle of the evening, since our house is not equiped with a fumoir, it seemed appropriate to step outside. The night sky was spectacularly clear from horizon to horizon. The Great Bear was visible to the north-east, the pointers pointing up to the North Star in the, well, in the north (usually, tho' not always as it turns out, a good omen). Cassiopeia was overhead, and the Milky Way was amazing as it lay in a band right across the sky. Gemini's Castor and Pollux were over towards the eastern horizon, and Cygnus stretched its wings out magnificently across the north-western sky. The stars coruscated, they did; they downright coruscated in the heavens. Twinkle, twinkle, little star, and no mistake. And more stars than you could shake a Voyager probe at.

As my neck was by now hurting from so much looking up around and about, I drifted into a state of relaxed introspection as I stood staring off into infinity, pondering the whichness of the why, the whatness of the wherefore and the whenness of the who. All was well with the world, indeed.

Then one of the stars moved a bit.

"Interesting," thought I, "there must be two stars there behind the trees, and that's the tree branches moving that's doing this..." Then I noticed that the "star" was clearly above the treeline, blowing that theory right out the water.

And then the "star" was blinking in different colours. Reds. Blues. Oranges. Whites. Yellows. Possibly others too. Possibly not.

"Oh!" thought I, "that's not a star after all, someone's out in a helicopter tonight!" And obligingly enough, the helicopter started to move a bit more - up and down, side to side. "Maybe our stealth sub's gone out again and they're looking for it on land first to save time..."

Then it changed direction so suddenly and violently that the helicopter idea was immediately blown out the sky, to labour the metaphor a little.

"Ah! Well, perhaps some whizzkid's got a quadracopter and likes flying it at night".

Now I don't know how convincing that sounds to you but, to be perfectly honest, I was certainly not managing to convince myself. The engine of rationalisation was running at maximum contingency rating and beyond, but the clutch of conviction was slipping, and the rotors of reality were spinning down rapidly. I was already thinking how this whole thing could be a major upset to my belief system, not to mention my seemingly-imminent inclusion in the tin-foil helmet brigade. But there was no getting away from it.

I was looking at a UFO.

There I was - a sane, sober, sensible, skeptical alliteration of a scientist - looking at a UFO. A UFO that was looking and behaving like so many of the descriptions that I had heard before and had always dismissed as, well, something in the spectrum between silly and psychotic. Not good. Not Good. This was definitely Not Good In Any Way.

What should I do? What could I do?

Naturally, I took the only sensible thing option open to me; indeed, what any sane person would do. I went back inside, said nothing, and carried on watching the film.

Perhaps not entirely unsurprisingly (given the proverbial Elephant In The Corner), my mind was more on what was going on outside the window than what was going on on the screen. When the film finished - I still don't know how it ended - I stepped outside again, expecting and hoping and wishing and praying (which is interesting for an agnostic; cf. "There are no atheists in foxholes") that everything would be back to "normal". Bummer. Stlll there. Still moving. Still flashing colours. What to do now, eh?

There was only one option open to me and my sanity - I called Mrs Jeem outside, gestured in its direction, and asked the fateful question "Do you notice anything unusual about that over there?" I crossed all my fingers and toes, and hoped that her reply would send me for answers more in the direction of medical papers called "The Short-term Post-imbibitionary Hallucinatory Effects Of Excessive Amounts of 25 year-old Islay Single Malts Consumed Over An Extended Period Of The Previous Evening." I should be so lucky.

"What, that light there one that's moving around a bit and flashing different colours?" Bummer. This elephant was clearly not going to go away without a fight.

Ding-ding, seconds out, rationalisation round 2. But at least someone else was asking the questions this time. What is it? Dunno. Is it a plane? No, it's not moving fast enough. Is it a helicopter? No, the changes of direction are too abrupt. Some sort of small hovering drone? If it is, it's a small hovering drone that's got enough fuel to hover almost in one place for over an hour so far, so, no, I don't think so.

Silence.

"Do you think it's a UFO? It sort of looks like a UFO, and seems to be behaving like a UFO, doesn't it?" Bummer. Exactly what I didn't want to hear. "Well, it's definitely something, and it's definitely flying and it's not anything that I know that might be able to behave like that, so..."

"Oh."

Silence.

More Silence.

Yet More Silence.

Finally, Mrs J speaks the immortal line. "Well, if it starts to send out a beam of light, I'm going back inside and I'm not coming out again tonight..."
Yes, you and me both, dear. And, what's more, if it does, I'll be off and inside a damned sight faster than you can even lift your first foot. (These last two thoughts go unspoken, of course. After all, fortune favours the fast and the first, but there's no need to advertise the facts or intentions.)

"I could go in and google it, see if anyone else has reported a UFO or anything like that round here" Now this seems like a good idea, but with one fundamental flaw. ("Are those the Horsemen Of The Apocalypse?" "I'm not sure, dear; best you keep an eye on 'em, whilst I pop inside and check on Wikipedia...") So we both retire inside, and get agoogling. After all, we can't be the only people to be witnessing this. Even better, maybe there'll be some really good rational sensible explanation for it all. Bummer. We quickly discover that the West of Scotland is a hotbed of UFO activity, an absolute Area 51 of aerial aliens, a rampant Roswell of rocketry of remote races. I did not wish to know that.

"While I'm doing this, why don't you pop back out and take some pictures of it?" WHAT?!?!? ME?!?!?! NOW?!?!?! ARE YOU MAD?!?!?! "Err, Ok..."

Mr Jeem takes the camera and, against his better judgement, steps outside yet again. Any nascent hopes of an empty sky are immediately dashed against the rocks of reality. It's still there. It's still strutting its stuff. Take some photos. Too much camera shake. Back inside, fetch tripod. Set up tripod. Take some more photos.

Now, here's a really unexpected but nevertheless very interesting thing. After a couple of hours of having first seen one's first UFO, one is actually getting quite bored of it. i mean, granted there's no big beam of light, which is good by all accounts, but on the other hand, just wibbling about and flashing coloured lights gets a bit tedious, for want of a better word. I mean, they've travelled from who knows where for who knows how long and who knows why, and now this wibbly-flash stuff is all they can think of doing.. Well, let's be honest here, it's not exactly intergalactically awe-inspiring, is it?

Anyway, pop back indoors, and the "good" news is that Mrs Jeem has already amassed a large set of pages of info on UFO sightings made here or hereabouts. The bad news is that some of these reports are from seemingly-normal people. The worse news is that the vast majority of them are clearly from nutters. But the worst news, of course, is that we are destined to join this band of seemingly-normal nutters, and there's nothing we can do about it.

Load the pictures onto the PC, and take a look. The ones with the camera shake are actually quite useful because they display very graphically the changing colours of the UFO. The ones taken on the tripod show that, yes, it's definitely moving about. It's pretty conclusive. We've seen a UFO. We're tin-foilers. Life will never be the same again. I read some more of the reports, feeling very unsure of what the future holds. I mean, life will never be the same again. But dare one tell anyone of all this? Will we just be treated with kind smiles and knowing nods in future? Or is it to be padded cells and blissful sedation for us? Whilst I'm reading and cogitating, and generally musing that a padded cell and heavy sedation would be a bit like working for CS (albeit with better pay and prospects, more job satisfaction, the possibility to actually achieve something sometime, and not being despised by the rest of society), from just behind me, Mrs Jeem delivers the coup de grace...

"Oh look! There's another one over there."

Not only is our UFO now visible to the south from the living room window (so we don't even have to step outside to see it), but Mrs Jeem is absolutely correct, there's now another one flickering and flitting about over to the south-west. The whole thing has now taken on a yet more surreal Close Encounters From The Sofa Kind aspect to it. As the old adage goes, "it's none, one or lots", so we are now presumably talking about lots of UFOs. We watch the two for a while, and then see if we can see any more of the little blighters...

Hang on a minute... That second one... Those three stars in a little neat line above it... That would mean... There's a scurry for the star map (you can take the man out of the Boy Scout, but you can't take the etc. etc.). A brief impromptu game of Twister ensues as we try to remember how to work the damned thing... Yep! Suspicion confirmed - that second UFO is exactly where Rigel, one of the brightest stars in the night sky, should be... Wat a minute - it is Rigel!

And that would mean... that would mean... another round of Twister, quicker this time... that our first UFO is there, exactly where Sirius is... Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky... Yes, it's Sirius!

But just in case - out comes the mobile phone. Fire up Sky Map, point and check... Sirius and Rigel, they are indeed...

But. but, but, but... we've got the evidence of our own eyes, and the pictures to confirm what we saw - we saw them move, we saw the coloured lights! How could this be? I mean, stars dancing about like that?!? WTF, as they say?!?!?! Stars don't move like that! Stars can't move like that!

Then, BING! the penny drops big-time! Both the stars are very low on the horizon. Twinkle, twinkle - BING! - another penny drops.

Although the sky had looked clear, it clearly wasn't. There must been a significant amount of moisture in the atmosphere. And some serious turbulence to stir it up. Suddenly, the movements and the changing lights all make sense!

Our UFOs are no longer unidentified, and they're not even flying. In fact, there not even objects, in a sense. They're the light from some of the brightest stars in the sky being refracted in the atmosphere, somewhat akin to a cross between a rainbow and a mirage, but much, much more dynamic; hence the amazing colour changes and the rapid and violent movements, all visible to the naked eye.

Nope, they're not "U"s, they're not "F"s, and they're not even "O"s.

But, for a couple of hours one night, for two normal, rational, reasoning people...
.

Last edited by weejeem; 25.01.2011 at 05:23.
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Old 25.01.2011, 07:21
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Re: Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

2226 words. 2+2+2=6 creeeeepy. Can Woli handle a multiquoted-multipost response to such a post?
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Old 25.01.2011, 08:46
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Re: Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

...and yet still incomplete. Weejeem didn't even tell us what they had for dinner, replete with close-up pictures and storyboarding of how they cooked it. And dare I say especially relevant in this case: what they drank with it.

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2226 words. 2+2+2=6 creeeeepy.
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Old 25.01.2011, 08:52
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Re: Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

Premature exasperation.

They're not coming, they never will, they couldn't be bothered to mix it up with such an introspective race. And when we launch the final Space Shuttle this year, our dreams and desires for the conquest of space and possibly time will be lost for at least another few generations whilst we sink into our own self-created importance and futility.

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Old 25.01.2011, 09:13
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Re: Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

Class (A) post.

Last edited by Upthehatters2008; 25.01.2011 at 09:26.
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Old 25.01.2011, 09:28
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Re: Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

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wibble
Spot the person who never read the post.

Bostin story, Mr Jeem!
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Old 25.01.2011, 09:37
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Re: Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

Are you sure this conclusion wasn't programmed?
I read in a newspaper, about a year ago, about a mysterious disappearance of a couple in Scotland - gone with no trace or explanation.
And you remember nothing of your journey?
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Old 08.02.2011, 01:31
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Re: Close Encounters Of The Nth Kind

Hey, our little intergalactic chums are back again this evening

Attachment 23335


And even knowing what's really going on, it's still pretty impressive. Got the same conditions as last time:
  • clear sky
  • bright star in "empty" bit of the sky
  • moisture in the air (even checked the IR satellite images this time!)
  • strong winds/turbulence aloft
plus, as an old colleague pointed, and I had temporarily forgotten about
  • Wikipedia reference-linkSaccades (same as wot makes those funny wee things wizz about in front of your eyes, usually on sunny days...)

It's all a bit like those "Magic Eye" pictures - once you get the hang of it, you can switch it on and off at will.
At least I understand now why so many people might be claiming to have seen a UFO


Last edited by weejeem; 14.10.2011 at 16:03.
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