Stranger In An Even Stranger Land - blog by Gurdur


A blog of random jottings on events, science, renfairs, travel, reading, music, humanism, religion, atheism, and even the odd spot of gardening.


The art of moral hegemony, bad logic, and Jeet Heer

Posted 13-Feb-2016 at 02:55 AM (02:55) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

I was interested in some recent tweets on the Vietnam War by @HeerJeet, who is Jeet Heer, a senior editor at the American New Republic. What interested me was the one-sided view of things. I hold that his worldview is a set of rather close-set blinders, so it's really up to me to justify that view of his own views. It would also be upfront to list what other claims I am making here (which I will then back up below in this post).
1) The view that Jeet Heer espouses of the Vietnam War is a
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Meeting @rmathematicus (Thony Christie), in Nuremberg (Nürnberg)

Posted 08-Oct-2013 at 10:38 PM (22:38) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 09-Oct-2013 at 01:50 AM (01:50) by Gurdur

I've long known @rmathematicus (Thony Christie) from his blog and Twitter, but last Sunday was the very first time I met him. I had gone to Innsbruck, Austria, for a #simulateMars tweet-up, and when I looked at the map, Nuremberg (Nürnberg) looked very much on the route between Innsbruck and back home for me (Solingen), so I made plans to stop over a day in Nuremberg just to meet @rmathematicus. Well, it turned out it wasn't exactly on the route, but it was all OK, and train connections were good...
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The Mamluks reassert control in Egypt. Something neither to celebrate nor to fear.

Posted 04-Jul-2013 at 07:22 PM (19:22) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 04-Jul-2013 at 09:18 PM (21:18) by Gurdur

The word Mamluk came from an Arabic word literally meaning "owned", and referred to slaves, but not quite slaves as you might think of them. Mamluks were a hereditary caste of warriors, who were supposedly slaves, but in practice, garnered huge power and riches to themselves, and who often became the rulers of their societies. There were Mamluk dynasties in full control in Persia (Iran, 1077–1231), in Delhi, India (1206–1290), and in Iraq (1704-1831). Most of all, there was a strong Mamluk dynasty...
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#FridayReads: my "Most Urgent" pile

Posted 20-Apr-2013 at 12:57 AM (00:57) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 20-Apr-2013 at 01:54 AM (01:54) by Gurdur

As usual, I am chaotic and random. Having had over a month of severe illness just behind me, I have a huge backlog of work, and part of all that is books I wish to review. These are a mixture of very new and very old books; I make no distinction on that score. They're also what pique my personal interest; I tend to only review books if I find them interesting myself. You might like a look at my "Most Urgent" stack of books to do; here it is, in descriptions and, below those, photos. The descriptions...
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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

Who owns the history of the winter of our discontent? A reply to Mary Beard et al

Posted 05-Feb-2013 at 11:27 AM (11:27) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 05-Feb-2013 at 11:52 AM (11:52) by Gurdur

Richard III was a king in England back in the days when a king was expected to take up sword himself, no matter how bookish or slight of build he was. Richard the Third was both bookish and slight of build, and had damage to his spine, most likely resulting in raising one shoulder a little higher than the other, making him look off-kilter. He was the very last king of England to actually die in battle, and he died bravely, fighting on despite being surrounded by foes and vastly outnumbered. ...
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Out of Africa, back from Tanzania

Posted 24-Dec-2012 at 01:00 PM (13:00) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 24-Dec-2012 at 01:54 PM (13:54) by Gurdur

I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to buckle down and start posting. There has been a lot to do, but that's not much of an excuse. Anyway I'll start now, with a series of posts on my trip to Tanzania. There are many aims for me in all this; for the first, I'ld like to show how you too can afford such a trip to see wildlife in Tanzania. Then, I am going to be writing a lot about the people and peoples in Tanzania; for example, I had the good luck to both meet a traditional, travelling Datooga...
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A love-song to London: review of "Dodger", a historical novel by Sir Terry Pratchett

Posted 21-Sep-2012 at 07:56 PM (19:56) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 21-Sep-2012 at 08:56 PM (20:56) by Gurdur

Terry Pratchett has a very new novel out, "Dodger"; he describes it as a historical fantasy. Here is the USA edition, and here is the British edition (photos of which are below this post). The novel is very much a love-letter to London, and especially to the London of the later 19th century. When Sir Terry Pratchett talked about it at the recent DiscWorld convention in Birmingham, he said he had considered writing it as a DiscWorld story, but decided not to go that way, at a remove, but instead...
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Women and men, and coffee, in 17th-century London

Posted 16-Aug-2012 at 04:42 PM (16:42) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Aug-2012 at 04:55 PM (16:55) by Gurdur

With grateful thanks to @DrAnnieGray, and also to @GentlemanSykes, here is a bit of tabloid (pamphlet) history. From 1674, London, a pamphlet against coffee allegedly being a womens' petition. Apparently this prompted a response, also in 1674, allegedly a "Mens' Answer To The Womens' Petition Against Coffee".

As to what was really going on, my guess is various commercial interests - pub owners and the like - were campaigning against the then-very-new coffee-houses, coffee as drink...
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News in science communication, 03 August 2012

Posted 03-Aug-2012 at 02:53 PM (14:53) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 03-Aug-2012 at 04:09 PM (16:09) by Gurdur

Some news in science communicationn (#scicomm), so here it is. First off, a new Guardian regular blog, "The H-Word", on the history of science. It's run by Rebekah Higgitt (@beckyfh) and Vanessa Heggie (‏@HPS_Vanessa), under the Guardian's history of science section (the blog also uses the Twitter hashtag #thwb). A reminder as well; if you really like history and philosophy of science, then the two Twitter hashtags #HPS and #histsci will serve you well, and the premier networker/networking publicist...
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Sad news: Encyclopaedia Britannica goes completely digital, stops printing books

Posted 14-Mar-2012 at 07:32 AM (07:32) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 14-Mar-2012 at 09:05 AM (09:05) by Gurdur

Sadly, Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was hit very hard by the web and Wikipedia, will no longer print editions of its encyclopaedia, after 244 years of doing so. It will rely instead upon only its online and digital versions. The New York Times has a piece up about it, as does the Guardian, as does The Atlantic. I don't see this as good, though it was not unexpected. I own a copy of their encyclopaedia set, and I love it. Encyclopaedia Britannica themselves put a brave face on it in their video...
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Waiting for the other shoe to drop in Greece. Not what you think it is, either.

Posted 23-Feb-2012 at 02:57 PM (14:57) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 23-Feb-2012 at 03:29 PM (15:29) by Gurdur

So, yeah, they all managed to agree to a new bail-out plan yesterday. It wasn't quite credible to many, including the Fitch ratings-agency. At the same time, the Greek government apparently also let it be known they had gotten their previous sums wrong, and that things were worse than thought. Nobody seemed to find this surprising or to be news. The whole bail-out thing looks ever more like a controlled default and slide into a Great Depression for Greece.

What are the practical alternatives?...
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Happy Darwin Day! Along with Martin Luther King Jr., the Suffragettes and more

Posted 12-Feb-2012 at 07:50 PM (19:50) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Feb-2012 at 12:06 AM (00:06) by Gurdur

Happy Darwin Day! Today, the 12th of February, is Darwin Day. I don't usually do memorial days, but the day for Darwin and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day are both days which really deserve remembrance, since both sum up essential aspects of the human condition and goals. Mind you, there's still a bit left over - one wonders if there is an Emma Goldman day, or a Rosa Luxemburg Day, to really balance up everything one should be remembering. Today, @dustshoveller, UK Parliamentarian archivist and historian,...
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Raleigh, North Carolina: like entering SimCity 2000

Posted 27-Jan-2012 at 05:35 PM (17:35) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 27-Jan-2012 at 05:49 PM (17:49) by Gurdur

Flying into Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina, is a bit like a Tron-wise entering of SimCity 2000. The airport looks very modern and new, with "Welcome To The Research Triangle" emblazoned in great big letters in the airport hall, and you think to yourself, oh I recognize this strategy in town-planning, large airport zoning, 100% to education funding, and upcoming space center as soon as it comes onstream. Coming into the city center again reminds you of SimCity 2000, with each small...
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Halloween, drinks and Vlad Dracula

Posted 31-Oct-2011 at 07:21 PM (19:21) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 31-Oct-2011 at 08:17 PM (20:17) by Gurdur

A very, very quick quickie of a blog post, because I'm desperately trying to compose and get published four other posts, but this is for Halloween, seeing as to how five local children just hit me up at my front door for trick-or-treat sweets.

First off, an old blog post of mine on how to make truly exciting drinks, USING SCIENCE (well, I count using dry ice - frozen carbon dioxide - as using science).

Still on the subject of drinks, maybe: Vlad Dracula. A new blog post points out most everyone depicts Dracula in completely the wrong armour....
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"The Giant's Shoulders" blog carnival for October, on history & philosophy of science

Posted 16-Oct-2011 at 10:30 PM (22:30) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Welcome to the October 16, 2011 edition of The Giant's Shoulders. This is a wandering monthly blog carnival, on the on history & philosophy of science, hosted on a different blog each month.

Mathematics, history: Fëanor reports the post "Archimedes and Euclid? Like String Theory versus Freshman Calculus" at the Degrees of Freedom blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

Then a book review: "When numbers were dotty: Marcus du Sautoy on Mayan mathematics and the way...
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The Black Death (plague) is still a mystery, still not explained

Posted 16-Oct-2011 at 06:14 PM (18:14) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Oct-2011 at 06:28 PM (18:28) by Gurdur

There's been a fair bit of news over the last two months about studies into the Black Death, that epidemic of the 14th century (mainly between 1347 and 1353 AD). The good news is that the studies appear to add to our knowledge. The bad news is that they contradict each other.

First off, usually the Black Death is blamed on plague, Yersina pestis, and more specfically, on one form of the illness that Yersina pestis can cause, bubonic plague. It can also cause pneumonic plague (spread...
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Last calls for this month's "The Giant's Shoulders" blog carnival, history & philosophy of science

Posted 15-Oct-2011 at 04:19 PM (16:19) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Just a quick reminder that this month's "The Giant's Shoulders" blog carnival, on the history and philosophy of science, will be posted here on this blog tomorrow.

You can still submit links to articles and posts for it here. I will post the actual big long list tomorrow. You can find a description of the wandering blog carnival here.



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Comments are welcome! Please keep in mind if you are not registered that comments posted here to this blog post may take a while to appear - up to 16 hours after you post them, since they go onto a moderation queue and have to be individually approved, in order to stop spammers. The answer to the so-called "Random Question" is always "human".

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Blogs round-up 25 September 2011

Posted 25-Sep-2011 at 09:41 PM (21:41) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 26-Sep-2011 at 02:37 AM (02:37) by Gurdur

So this should be a bumper crop, owing to too much time elapsing between my last blogs round-up and this one. I'll do what I can here today, but owing to time constraints, I will have to do a Part 2 a little later. Part 2 will be signficantly longer; I have a lot of posts marked for notice.

History of science, science journalism, science, medicine, neuroscience: The Giant's Shoulders blog carnival for September is up. If you try a direct link to the post in question, you get a 404...
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Mathematics, religion and history, and symbol as opposed to reality

Posted 12-Aug-2011 at 08:15 PM (20:15) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Aug-2011 at 01:55 AM (01:55) by Gurdur

Mathematics in its history has often being intertwined with religion, which shouldn't be all that surprising at all. One of the roots of religion was to be the memory of the tribal group; such a memory is necessary when building and following reasonably accurate calenders, rather vital in agriculture, and necessary even for hunter-gatherers; knowing when herd animals will be migrating back into your area can be very handy if you depend on them for food. Then mathematics was often thought of as more...
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Shades Of Gray: treatment of mentally ill in the US armed forces during WW2 period

Posted 19-Jul-2011 at 01:48 PM (13:48) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

As regular readers of my blog will know, I often blog on various mental health issues, mainly for three reasons:
  • Care of the mentally ill: I've worked in that large field, and I've had several friends who had what is so conflationarywise called mental illness.
  • The intersection between evolved free will and automatism forced by mental illness: this is of great importance and interest to all philosophy of mind.
  • Self-care for activisits: how to stop yourself getting
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