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Having just read C_W_Monkey's review on this subject, I felt it was time to update my review as my views will no doubt have changed on this topic since I first wrote this review.
Firstly I think I’ll set the tone for the rest of this opinion. ========= ~ My background ~ =========
Like many children, when I was born I was Christened. Neither of my parents are in any way religious so you may ask why they had me Christened. I've asked them myself to which they replied "it was the done thing in those days". So I was, quite frankly, Christened for no other reason than it was "the done thing".
As a child, attending an ordinary primary school in England, I was made to attend morning assembly Monday through to Friday. Morning assembly usually consisted of some religious sermon or another. Like most students at that age, you believe whatever you get told. You believe that Santa exists because your parents tell you he exists and you believe that the Tooth Fairy also exists because theres always 50p waiting for you under your pillow when you wake up after losing a tooth. So, quite naturally, I, like many others, believed in the tales from the Bible. I believed Moses was found in a wicker basket and that Noah had shipped all the animals into a boat two by two when the floods came. Who was I to not only question a 2000+ year old book but also to question my teachers?
Occasionally morning assembly also consisted of the students themselves reading out the stories. Students didn't get the option of whether they wishes to stand up and read infront of the entire school. It was compulsory at least once between years 3 and 6. I recall having to do this just once (fortunately!). I can't recall what it was I had to talk about. It had traditional Christian views at its centre though. I had to read this infront of the school. At the time I really didn't care about what I was reading. I was more concerned about stumbling over my words. I was very shy as a child and the thought of having to read infront of the whole school was VERY nerve wracking. Looking back on it though. Was it right to make me read something that I may not necessarily believe in?
As I got older I did naturally start to question things. Like just HOW did Noah make a boat big enough to fit all the animals in pairs in? And also, how did he stop the lions from eating the zebras if they were all enclosed on the one boat?
Asking my parents yielded no results whatsoever because I usually just got "I don't know, I wasn't around at the time!" response. My step grandmother was (and still is) the only religious person in my entire family. I used to ask her such questions but I never got satisfactory answers. Despite her being a devout Christian (attending Church every Sunday and even running her local Sunday School - something she still does today), she also never seemed to have conclusive answers. So, why, without any proof, do all these people believe? Science always taught me to question things and apply the standard scientific theory and logic to everything in life (and death). Yet Religious Education classes taught us that we were to believe in things that had NO proof whatsoever. It was all very confusing. Especially for one so young.
I soon started thinking about proof. How could someone prove the existence of God? It seemed a little on the difficult side to do this so I looked to the next step down. If God exists and what we are LED to believe is true (i.e. there is life after death) then maybe, just maybe, we should start looking at this life for our answers. People from all religions for many hundreds of thousands of years have proclaimed to have 'strange' experiences of one sort or another. The most obvious here being ghostly sightings and experiences.
Why, despite countless attempts to prove the existance of ghosts, has no one ever got conclusive proof?
Also, if we all have a soul then why aren't ghosts and spirits seen on a daily basis by everyone? Surely with all the people who've lived and died before us, you'd think there'd be enough ghosts walking around to warrant us all seeing them on a regular basis?
I asked my parents, family and friends if they'd ever seen a ghost. No one had. This seemed peculiar to me. I'd never seen one myself. I came to the (rational) conclusion therefore that it looked like it was all hocus-pocus and was indeed just a made up fairy tale.
That was until the age of 10 when, whilst staying at a friends house, I had to alter my views rapidly (overnight in fact).
You see, it was at the age of 10 that we moved from Lancashire to North Wales. Before we moved down to Wales I decided that I’d stay in contact with a few of my friends from primary school. Weeks passed, I sent letters to my now pen-pals and received letters back (sometimes!). After a year or so I’d only really kept in touch with two of my friends. One of whom invited me up to stay at her house for a week in the Summer Holidays.
It was quite daunting going to stay at my friends house for a week because I'd never been away from my parents for such a long period of time. Anyway, I conquered this fear and went to stay with her for a week.
Everything was going great. Everything was fine until one night she came up with the idea that we’d have a midnight feast. It seemed like a good idea at the time! We went to bed at about 9pm and tried to stay awake. I guess I had more willpower than my friend (also called Sarah) as she kept nodding off to sleep! Anyway, midnight arrived so I woke her up. We made our way out of her bedroom, sneaked across the landing and down the stairs, avoiding the third stair from the bottom as it creaked.
I’ll set the scene for you all now. Her house, and yes, you’ve guessed it, was a really old house…..creaky stairs 'n’ all! Between the bottom of the staircase and our destination (the kitchen!) there was a cabinet - the usual - drawers/cupboard doors and a mirror on top of it.
So we walked towards the kitchen. We passed said cupboard on my left. Went into the kitchen, opened the fridge, got a yoghurt, some chocolate biscuits and a drink and then turned around to make our way back to her bedroom. We left the kitchen and entered the hall again. We walked towards the cupboard (now on our right) and, it was at this point that I saw my first ghost.
The ‘ghost’ was a young girl, of around 7 years old. She was, as traditional ghosts are, dressed in all-white robes. Now comes this confusing bit. She looked to be sat on top of the cabinet except I couldn’t actually see her sitting there. I could only see her reflection in this mirror above the cabinet.
So, me being my rational, scientific self put it down to being either a figure of my imagination or maybe, just maybe, there was some sort of pattern inscribed on the mirror. I questioned Sarah about this and she said that the mirror was perfectly flat, no pattern or anything on it. So what was ‘it’? Either it was a figure of *both* out imaginations or it was something unexplainable. I am sure it wasn't just the reflections from the small pains of glass above the front door either.
Maybe it was just a figure of our imaginations, or perhaps some sort of light trickery seen as it was pretty dark down there, just the odd rays of light from outside. Or possibly it was just a dream that we had both had at the same time? (I've since tried to think up all possible reasons!)
One thing that did surprise me, well still does to this day, thinking back, is the fact that I felt no fear. You'd think that at age 10, in the dark, particularly in a relatively strange house, you'd be scared if you saw a ghost wouldn't you? I'm sure if I bumped into one now whilst on my own oor with just one other person, in the dark, I'd be scared!
I guess I’ll never know whether it was a ghost or not.
No matter what it was we say, that day (or night technically) has changed my life dramatically.
From that day I believed that there was more to this life than meets the eye. I still wasn't sure whether it proved life after death, God or any other thing, I just knew that there was more to this life than we currently can prove.
As I went into high school, science soon became my favourite subject. I soon decided that I'd study science A-levels. I did indeed do this. I went on to study Physics, Chemistry and Biology A-levels at 18. Physics was my favourite subject of all and made me question my beliefs even deeper.
Physics is logical. It all makes sense. (Well, at least it does if your brain and calculator can keep up!) It all runs smoothly and like clockwork. There's an equation or formula for everything, whether you understand the theory behind it or not is irrelevant. It still exists and no matter what you do, there's no stopping it. Surely there's no place for such "arty farty" beliefs in Physics? Surely Physicists have better stuff to do with their time than look into the possibility of life after death or the existance of some supreme being? After all, everything we do no contradicts religion at every turn. We KNOW the Earth wasn't made in 7 days. Evolution is pretty much viewed on as being science fact now too so this contradicts religion again. Is there any place for God in this increasingly logical, scientific world?
Thats where Philosophy comes in I guess.
It was at age 18 that I decided I'd be the first person to prove such things as ghosts and spirits. Despite countless academics having tried for many times before, I was to be the first person to do it. How hard can it be?
I may have been naive but regardless of this fact, I'm pleased I took this view point now. As, in 2002, I set a paranormal research group up to do just this. North Wales Paranormal Research has since grown from just me to some 80 members up and down the UK. Consisting of 6 core Committee members, NWPR has since launched itself into such places as Castles, Mansions, Stately homes, Gaols, Pubs, Hotels and private houses in the quest for conclusive proof of the paranormal.
The longer we're actively involved in researching the paranormal, the more sceptical we're becoming. I started out as somewhat of a believer when NWPR first started out. I was always sceptical to a point, naturally with my science background, I questionned things and didn't just take things for granted. I wanted proof. But, all the same, deep down, I did believe. Some members started out similar to myself while others started out more sceptical. We've all become rather sceptical now. Of course we'd all LOVE to get conclusive proof one way or the other (and this shall remain to be our aim) but the longer we're in this "game" the more we question things.
So, do I believe that there is life after death?
Obviously I can’t be sure either way. From a NWPR point of view, I CAN say that we've had some genuinely unusual results and experiences (both in person and captured on camcorder and other bits of equipment).
Our aim is to research the paranormal scientifically. We are beyond the point of going into a supposed haunted location and spending hour upon hour dowsing using rods and pendulums or relying on what a medium has to tell us. We've been there and done that. There are many hundreds of paranormal research groups these days set up (due to the current popularity of programmes such as "Most Haunted" and the likes). Many (I dare even say most) of these groups are quite content in doing just that. They are in it for fun and fun alone. They get their kicks out of running around screaming in supposed haunted locations. They think that by their dowsing rods crossing when they ask "are there any spirits here" that there HAS to be because thats what the rods have told them. They believe everything the medium is telling them. They believe that every little creaking noise over in the corner of the room is a ghost walking around. And (the most annoying of all) they believe that ever speck of light they capture on digital camcorder is an orb. This proves spirit existance beyond all shadow of a doubt and they are unprepared to listen to more logical explanations because "they know and they believe".
Try telling them that you can get "orbs" on camera anywhere - 99.9% of which are caused by nothing more than dust particles caught in the camera flash.
Try telling them that in an old house, floor boards creak on a regular basis, even if there's no one in there. It's natural for all houses to make noises as they warm up and cool down again at night. You don't have to be in one of the UK's supposed most haunted locations to experience this.
Try telling them that not all mediums are kosher. In fact a lot are in it to "cash in" on the current popularity of the field. It is VERY easy to look information up on the Internet and in books these days and plan your what you are going to say in advance.
Try reminding them that the cold draft they experienced may well have been caused by the window being ajar.
Try telling them that their EMF meter giving off anomalous readings probably has nothing to do with ghosts but has more to do with the fact that they're holding it next to an electricity cable.
It's a catch 22 situation. There's an ever increasing number of such individuals and groups out there. They are springing up on a daily basis and are not doing the world of the REAL paranormal investigators any good whatsoever.
Being open minded enough to be willing to spend your Saturday nights out in cold, often derelict buildings that have had some supposed paranormal activity reported in them is the key in all of this. However. Being open minded does not necessarily mean you have to believe. What many people fail to realise is that you should also be ready to question ANYTHING that happens. Even if its captured on video camera too. There's always the possibility that the noises you heard in the corner of the room WERE a ghost but its far more likely to have been caused by the room cooling down.
Personally, I do believe there may be something after we die. This is just my own personal belief though. I can't tell you why I believe this. It's certainly not just the ghost sighting I had at 10 years of age because, like I say, I have had to question the validity of my own claim since then. I just believe, deep down, that there is something after we die. I don't know whether it is anything like we perceive Heaven to be or indeed where we go. I don't even know if we "go" anywhere or whether we remain here, on another plane or are perhaps reincarnated. I really don't know.
Generally though, I’ve got a very rational, scientific mind. I’m not one for believing without seeing.
Lets look at the facts behind this argument.
The idea of life after death poses one major question that we need to answer in this day and age before anyone can *truly* believe.
That question is HOW?
Physically speaking now, HOW can there possibly be life AFTER death?
It just can't be possible. Surely.
We simply cannot go on living, breathing, thinking, moving, touching, blinking, walking, etc. when out hearts have stopped beating. Our body has gone into rigor mortis and quite frankly we are 6 feet under!
So does that answer the question? Well it would appear not. After all, how do you possibly explain ALL the supposed sightings of ghosts? Not ALL have been proven to be hoaxes or figures of the imagination. Some simply cannot be explained. There are far too many paranormal occurences being reported to simply ignore them as whimsical things that people have made up to get into the local newspaper.
There is supposed to be some physical observations that can be noted when a ghost is present, e.g. the traditional drop in temperature. (I personally cannot remember experiencing this myself though) Maybe this is just a through-draft from that window in the kitchen you forgot to shut? Or maybe not? Research does seem to indicate that there is a change in temperature associated with such things as ghosts but at the same time. However, many a time, such an apparent change in temperature is not physically recorded on any device, it is merely perceived by the people witnessing the phenomena. Therefore perhaps such an apparent temperature drop is in the mind?
On the other side of the coin, if there is a drop in the temperature and people put it down to being psychological effects, then surely you would expect the person to feel warmer, due to the adrenaline that such an experience initiates?
Then there are numerous cases when said temperature drops (and/or changes) ARE recorded on all manner of themometers, both traditional mercury based ones and high-tech digital versions.
Paranormal phenomenon has become increasingly popular in the press and media lately. There’s been quite a few things in recent years in the papers about unexplained phenomenon. There’s also been quite a few programmes being shown on Sky recently. I saw a programme on Discovery Civilisations some months ago - "Ghost Hunters" (you'll find it's repeated on a regular basis).
There's quite a few different episodes in the series but there is one in particular that intrigued me. I'm afraid I can no longer recall the finer points as I've not seen a repeat of this episode since. However, there were 3 or 4 scientists that were doing research into some environmental issue in the remains of a local fort. Their research had nothing at all to do with ghosts. They were busily researching away when suddenly one of them spotted someone. This person appeared to be a monk, dressed in black robes, with the hood covering his entire head and the majority of his face. Being scientists they assumed it was just someone messing around, or perhaps there was some sort of tourists trip to this fort and this man was part of the “display”. Anyway they tried to speak to him, as soon as they spoke this man ran off. They followed him, by now he’d started to go up some old stone stairs running up the inside of one of the walls of this fort. They started to climb up the stairs (by which point he’d reached the top). They got up about 10 stairs at which point this “man” disappeared. As soon as he had disappeared the scientists found themselves in a heap on the floor. They had not all spontaneously fallen off the sides of these stairs. It appeared that the “stairs” were never actually there…..they had climbed up 10 steps that were not there. Clever or what!
So surely the stairs were a figure of their imaginations? If that’s the case though how on earth did they physically climb up 10 or so steps? We’re talking at least 8 foot into thin air.
After researching what the fort had once been they discovered that it had once been a place where hanging’s had taken place. Maybe this is of relevance? Maybe it’s not. Again, I guess they will never know.
There's no disputing the fact that these men were all of sound mind, it was broad daylight so it can't have been a trick of the light or their imaginations running away with them. They were scientists researching the area for an entirely different purpose. I dare say that none of them even believed in such poppy-cock as ghosts before this event either.
I'm not saying their experience was genuine though. They may well have made it up to get on the programme. I have no reason to dispute their claim though.
It's not just mere ghost sightings that one has to consider when looking at the possibility of life after death though. There are many other 'strange' and, as yet, unexplainable events occuring on a daily basis.
Lets look at some of the popular reasons for believing in life after death. ================ ~ Near Death Experiences ~ ================ Near Death Experiences, or NDE’s, have been reported by thousands of people for many thousands of years.
What are they?
Well no one really knows for sure (as with all other such fields!). Many people have researched this area, from psychologists to surgeons. In one book I read, a heart surgeon gave all his patients forms to fill in once they had recovered from their operations asking them about the anaesthetics, recover time and also whether they had experienced anything unusual while supposedly unconscious. He found that something like 38% of his patients had in fact experienced something odd. Out of those, 7% had even experienced an Out of Body Experience (I’ll cover this topic next).
Not only has this surgeon come up with results like these, many others have across the world. And, interestingly, it doesn’t appear to matter what religion you follow. Even atheists have experienced similar things. So our fate seems to be completely universal.
What is supposed to happen?
Well having never experienced one of these I cannot tell you from first hand experience, I can only relay what I’ve read elsewhere.
People experience very similar things. Most who experienced an NDE reported seeing ‘the light’. This is probably the most popular thing you’ll have heard about. Next it was the sensation of being drawn down a tunnel towards this light, which incidentally is not dazzling, just really bright. Next on the list is the feeling of total calm and tranquillity. Most didn’t want to return, which brings me on to the next point. Next on the list is the feeling of a presence or actually seeing someone (sometimes this may be someone you have known in your life). They are somehow telling you its not time to go yet, you have to return to your body. Many said the person in their NDE didn’t actually say anything, it was like they had become telepathic whilst experiencing the NDE.
Can we test their validity?
To an extent yes, for example, by asking 'witnesses' very detailed questions about their experience(s). Many are able to relay details about an operation they were undergoing at the time, giving precise details about the equipment used, the surgeons and nurses present, what was said in the operating theatre, etc. One thing is for certain though, we cannot (currently) induce NDE's in the lab to test them regularly. This is for the simple reason that 99% of NDE’s need a genuine near death experience. No scientist would be allowed to nearly kill his volunteers in the name of a paranormal investigation! =============== ~ Out of body experience ~ =============== This field is one that really fascinates me. Having read many books on the topic but having never personally experienced one (to my knowledge), as with NDE's, I can only relay what I've read.
What are OBE’s?
Well again, we are not entirely sure what they are. Some people claim to be able to induce these themselves, but, try as I might, I’ve not had much success with this! Having said that, I still do not doubt the validity of other peoples tales of what ‘lies beyond’. They are able to raise their souls out of their bodies, just as you might expect to happen after death. After the are ‘out of body’ they can either travel around in a conventional manner, including the ability to go through walls, ceilings, etc. Or they can perform some sort of quantum teleportation, by this I mean that they can travel to somewhere just by thinking of that place (I personally cannot see how this is possible really, although like I said before, I don’t have any personal experience).
This is one point I think I should raise in this section. Apparently, whatever you think while in an OBE can and will appear before you. So if you start to get worried about “what happens if I meet a demon?” then you are more than likely going to find out there and then. Whether this is true or not, I really don't know. But if it is true then this points to the close link between our brains and our souls.
======= ~ Poltergeists ~ =======
These are possibly the biggest ‘evidence’ for life after death. The good thing about poltergeists is the fact that they manifest themselves in a physical plane, or, they interact with physical objects.
We’ve all heard tales about things going bump in the night, and, it seems, things really do go bump in the night that are, as yet, unexplained.
One of the more rational/sceptical views about poltergeists is that they are caused by totally geological features. E.g. fault lines or magnetic effects.
A feeling of sixth sense and other extra sensory perceptions have been increased while under strong magnetic fields (many psychology labs across the globe have tested this) however as yet, the only results they have obtained have been under extremely high magnetic fields. No magnetic fields found in natural conditions are found to be so high.
One programme I watched a number of years ago stated that a physicist had been working late a few evenings in his lab and had experienced a feeling of being watched. He thought nothing of it until the next evening. He saw someone or something move behind him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He started to feel cold. All the usual ‘symptoms’. He didn’t believe in any form of paranormal activity.
Anyway, he decided to ask his colleagues the day after and some of them had experienced similar things. One strange thing was that it seemed to be linked to the arrival of a new fan in the lab. Perhaps their was a ghost that was following the fan around!?
Being physicists though they tested things out and found that the frequency at which the fan ‘hummed’ (inaudible to the human ear) happened to trigger something at the back of your eyeballs that makes your eyeball vibrate at such a frequency that you actually start to 'see' things in your peripheral vision. All very logical. But not ALL paranormal things have been explained.
======= ~ Ouija boards ~ =======
We all know they’re sold as ‘board games’ over in the US. But then we’ve all heard of people claiming never to touch one of these things. Many people are genuinely petrified after dabbling with these things.
I personally have used Ouija boards on countless occasions and I've yet to have a truly petrifying experience. Sure, the planchette has moved and its spelt things out but I've yet to see the planchette move on its own (i.e. without our fingers touching it) or have windows smashing, loud banging noises, foul stenches or indeed sightings of any unearthly demon. I've only been scared on one occasion before and that was about a year ago (April 19th 2003 to be precise!) I was in a group of 4 people sitting on the floor outside a supposed haunted castle. We had 6 or so candles lit in a circle around us (merely to provide light as it was the middle of the night at this point). We were doing an Ouija board and asked if the spirit(s) had any messages for any of us present. It said "Yes". At this point the candles were blown out one by one (it was not particularly windy but there was a slight breeze). It wasn't that they were blown out that freaked me out but it was the manner in which they were - in a circular formation, one by one. At this point I got the feeling that we shouldn't be there. I'm normally about as psychic as a house brick and such "feelings" tend to pass me by but on this occasion I wasn't happy. Incidentally, the other 3 with me at the time all thought the same thing. We left the board and walked the long walk back down the drive again, leaving all our belongings at the castle. We did NOT want to return. A good hour or so later we finally returned. I have since come to the conclusion that it was our imaginations getting the better of us. Once I'd said "does anyone feel really uneasy now?" I'd implanted that thought in the other peoples' minds and the rest is history. It's natural that we'd be at least a little apprehensive, in the dead of night, sat outside a supposed haunted castle with just 6 candles to light it up (which were then blown out one by one), just after the Ouija board had told us it had a message for one of us.
It hasn't put me off doing Ouija boards at all and I still use them today. (NB. this is not to say NWPR uses them on its investigations. We have nothing against them whatsoever but as they offer no scientific, conclusive proof of the paranormal, we see them as being somewhat of a waste of time on investigations. We use them more as a research tool in themselves - i.e. is there anything remotely paranormal about them or is it entirely our own subconscious minds moving the planchette?)
Many who have used these though do seem to have experienced something.
For those closed minded sceptics who "know" there is nothing paranormal whatsoever then can they explain how a simple ouija board (often nothing more than a piece of paper with letters, numbers and the words "yes", "no" and "goodbye" written on them) influence peoples minds to such an extent? Admitted, the planchette has never moved of its own accord when I've been using them but many, many people claim to have seen this occur. E.g. planchette flying around the board with no one (living) touching it. Glasses smashing, mirrors cracking, windows smashing, doors slamming, people seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling some bizarre things, furniture and indeed themselves being levitated, etc. So how can such a simple thing as an Ouija board manipulate its environment in such a way?
Don't get me wrong. Of course people have made things up or at least exaggerated the truth. I dare say most people who've claimed to have windows smashing, doors slamming, etc whilst using Ouija boards have elaborated with the truth. BUT surely not everyone has? After all, some Ouija boards are conducted under proper controlled laboratory conditions and yet still strange things are reported to happen. Surely there must be something happening in some cases?
So I’m afraid after this long debate I’m just going to have to say that the topic of whether or not life after death is possible is entirely up to yourselves. You might be a firm believer one way or the other, no matter what religion you follow and you are always going to come across someone with the opposite opinion to yourself.
At the end of the day, it's entirely down to personal belief.
For all you firm sceptics out there though. If you think that you’d need to see a ghost before believing it, or perhaps have video (not hoax) evidence of a ghost, then why do you still not believe after hearing/seeing clips of the security video’s in hospitals. We’ve all heard about them/seen clips of them. Someone dies and on the video camera at that exact moment there suddenly appears to be a disturbance of one sort or another hovering over the body.
“Maybe it’s just dust?” you may say, but don’t you think it’s a little too convenient to occur on a regular basis?
I can myself verify that strange things ARE caught on camcorder in supposed haunted locations (far from the usual dust "orbs") and are NOT hoaxed. We at NWPR have caught such strange things in the past and continue to do so. We have no intention to fake things or indeed "touch up" things in Photoshop. With us its very much WYSIWYG - what you see is what you get. If its on the camcorder when we come to analyse it then it was there at the time of recording.
I do not think we’ll have the answers for quite a few years. Science is advancing rapidly though so maybe one day we will know for certain one way or another.
I think the aire of mystery in it makes life slightly more rewarding though. After all, if we all KNEW, with 100% certainty, that there was definitely NO life of any description after death then it would make life ever so depressing!
There is so much more to this topic, and, until we know more about this topic no one can truly KNOW one way or the other. I guess we’ll just all have to wait until that one eventful day to arrive.
If any of you reading this decide to try OBE's or a make-shift NDE, feel free to pop along to a NWPR investigation. Please don't be camera shy - we won't be entirely happy until we get a full apparition on a few camcorders at the same time. Ideally the apparition would also be holding a sign saying "yes, I really am a ghost, now do you believe?" too!!
So, to conclude, maybe I’ll see you one day, floating on a cloud with wings!?
Very Good. Well Done. I liked your take on this discussion alot.
sigmatech 23.11.2006 01:02
Very good read and covered almost all aspects of the subject, have read many books on the supernatural over the years and I'm still to be convinced. I may be a skeptic but I love the subject matter and still hope some day to be convinced Regards, Joe
arnoldhenryrufus 07.09.2005 02:19
An excellent review, covering all angles - I myself am a believer in life after death, I found you review very interesting to read, have you ever read about past mediums that helped start the SNU - Spiritual National Union. People like Helen Duncan,Emma Hardinge Britton and The Fox Sisters you may find them interesting reading. Not everything can be explained by science, it was nice to see that you are still looking for the answers - lyn x