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 #HugoAwards 2015: examining the nominations

Posted 21-Apr-2015 at 08:29 PM (20:29) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

I am a book-lover, I love science-fiction and fantasy, but I've never really interested myself till now for the awards scenes. However, as everyone knows, at the moment the Hugo Awards are the center of a sea of rages. Let's do the single-most important issue first: let's go through the Hugo Award Nominations for 2015, and see what's up with them. What follows is what I know at the moment myself, and my own opinions on what I've read:

Category: Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots,...
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And now that book will never be written. My personal tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

Posted 12-Mar-2015 at 08:58 PM (20:58) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

I first met Terry Pratchett around twenty years ago, at a SF/fantasy convention in the Netherlands. I had not read any of his books, and I had thought they must be silly because of the book-cover design. This was not the only huge mistake I was to make. A year later, and a neurology research colleague at Duesseldorf university recommended his books to me. Eventually I actually read one, and I was blown away, hooked for evermore. Once I actually read his books, the book-cover design made perfect...
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Authors, please don't do this on social-media. For your own sakes.

Posted 15-Jan-2015 at 10:28 PM (22:28) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 15-Jan-2015 at 11:13 PM (23:13) by Gurdur

Book authors, I get it's a long, lonely, grueling effort to sell one's books, even using the social-media of today. However, please do not do what is shown below. To explain the two screen-capture images: these are both screen-grabs of tweets immediately following each other on my Twitter timeline (TL) from three different Twitter accounts. In other words, they all posted the same tweet at the same time. It makes all three authors on Twitter look like sock-puppets of each other, and it also can...
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The gamification of human society and control: Modelling markets, protest, regulation, cooperation, planning and freedom

Posted 11-Dec-2014 at 03:06 PM (15:06) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 11-Dec-2014 at 05:28 PM (17:28) by Gurdur

Gamification of human society has gone on a lot longer than you might think. There is the ancient game of chess, which came to to the West via Persia (checkmate, IIRC, comes from shah-mak, meaning death of the Shah). Chess, which has Chinese (象棋, Xingq) and Japanese (将棋, shōgi) forms as well, models both human society and ritualized warfare. Much more ancient is the game of Go ( 囲碁, igo). The game of course models conflict, though not with as much...
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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Cathy Young, Anita Sarkeesian, and The Hunger Games

Posted 02-Nov-2014 at 06:38 AM (06:38) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 03-Nov-2014 at 07:00 AM (07:00) by Gurdur

Just out of the blue my eye was caught by an article by Cathy Young (@CathyYoung63) on literary criticism by Anita Sarkeesian (@femfreq) of The Hunger Games (a trilogy of books by author Suzanne Collins, @_SuzanneCollins, which have partly and will be fully rendered into movies). Cathy Young's article is well-written, and presents many worthy points, but I would like to add some points of my own to all this, and there are certain themes that need to be drawn out of the subject - a subject I have...
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Short review of Adrian Teal's "The Gin-Lane Gazette"

Posted 30-Jun-2013 at 05:08 PM (17:08) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 30-Jun-2013 at 05:31 PM (17:31) by Never (typo)

Weighing in at 112 pages, but with a huge wealth of invention, the caricaturist and artist Adrian Teal has a book out, "The Gin-Lane Gazette" (USA edition, British edition). It's a very interesting one in many aspects; the publisher is Unbound (@unbounders), who function not just as publishers but also as a platform for crowd-funding the publishing of books. Teal's book is a romp through Georgian times in England (1750-1800) grounded on extremely good documentation. Teal writes about actual events...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

The eternal cyclic rebirth of Satan and evil

Posted 28-Jun-2013 at 08:34 PM (20:34) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 28-Jun-2013 at 09:01 PM (21:01) by Gurdur

Give the Devil his due; he can constantly reappear in the most surprising ways. The Devil, Satan, Shatain, and under many other names is a figure who appears in many belief systems. Andrew Delbanco, who is now the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, is the author of a book now out a fair while, but very well-worth reading: "The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil" (USA hardcover and paperback, British hardcover and paperback editions). In...
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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Why the strange absence of both science and theology in Game Of Thrones?

Posted 18-May-2013 at 03:01 AM (03:01) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 24-Aug-2013 at 10:04 PM (22:04) by Gurdur

Game of Thrones is a very readable series of books by George R. R. Martin, and has also been filmed as a series by HBO, now into Season 3. The book series is more correctly known as "A Song Of Ice And Fire", but after the HBO series more commonly known as Game of Thrones (GoT). In the fantasy, the land of Westeros has been thoroughly settled for over 5,000 years - a significantly long time, which gives emphasis to the omissions in it I wish to point out. Iron and steel seem to have been in manufacture...
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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: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

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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Rating: 4 votes, 5.00 average.

Of New Guinea tribes, pork tapeworms, Jewish grandmothers and California

Posted 15-Sep-2012 at 12:07 AM (00:07) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

There's a bit of news from California, regarding worries that the pork tapeworm - Taenia solium - may become well-established in Cailfornia. The eggs of the pork (or pig) tapeworn can easily cross from pigs to people, and where hygiene or cooking are inadequate, it can easily be transmitted from person to person. The tapeworm's larvae can easily lead to cysts being formed in the human body, and these cysts and the alive or dying larvae can lead to massive problems in the human body- especially when...
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Can a striped animal have a spotted tail? Videos of joint lecture by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart

Posted 05-Sep-2012 at 05:38 PM (17:38) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 05-Sep-2012 at 06:25 PM (18:25) by Gurdur (Few typos corrected.)

A spotted animal can have a striped tail, but a striped animal cannot have a spotted tail. This was one of the great explorations of nature and mathematics in a joint lecture by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen at the recent DiscWorld convention in Birmingham, UK. Ian Stewart is a world-famous British research mathematician and author; Jack Cohen is a world-famous British reproductive biologist and author. Both have collaborated with Sir Terry Pratchett to co-author three books on science and philosophy,...
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Interview and discussion with Chris, a bookshop owner and atheist

Posted 20-Apr-2012 at 09:36 PM (21:36) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

This is a fairly long discussion between Never of the FRDB board and of the Heathen Hub board, Chris (also of the FRDB (Free Ratio) board), a bookshop owner in Ohio and atheist, and myself. It is one of many such interviews I would like to make of people encountered over the net, in all walks and ways of life. It's split up into segments under 10 minutes' length each in order to avoid YouTube imposing advertising on the clips. It was a very good discussion, with many different aspects; I was surprised...
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How do Katniss and Peeta cope with and overcome PTSD? Psychology in The Hunger Games

Posted 16-Mar-2012 at 10:14 AM (10:14) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Mar-2012 at 10:52 AM (10:52) by Gurdur

If you haven't yet read all three of the books in the Hunger Games trilogy, you may not want to read this, since it gives away the ending. But if you're interested in how to cope with PTSD, and if you've read the books, then this is for you. I last blogged about the trilogy by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, set USA hardcover edition, British paperback edition) and the movie made of the first book in my post here.

At the end of the whole trilogy,...
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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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Rating: 6 votes, 5.00 average.

The Hunger Games, and why you should take notice of it

Posted 14-Mar-2012 at 05:56 AM (05:56) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 14-Mar-2012 at 09:44 AM (09:44) by Gurdur

The movie The Hunger Games hits the cinemas worldwide around March 22, and should be in cinemas for around 4 weeks or more after that date. It is a film adaptation of the first novel from the trilogy of the same name by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games Trilogy Box Set, USA hardcover edition, British paperback edition; the other two books in that set are titled Catching Fire and Mockingjay). The trilogy of books, meant for young adults and older children, is in my opinion quite a brilliant bit of...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Some books on psychology, neurophilosophy, and neuromania/neurobollocks

Posted 16-Feb-2012 at 12:12 PM (12:12) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Feb-2012 at 03:14 PM (15:14) by Gurdur

So you want to model the human brain? So you think about how to simulate it? Been listening to Ray Kurzweil lately? Hang on, you're in for a rocky ride, because there are big, big problems in trying to do that. This is just a very quick blog post to give some reading material on various aspects of neurophilosophy. Since that's such a horribly complex area, then I add here some books thrown in in a random way on all sorts of tangential but important aspects. Anyone knowledgeable in this area will...
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A Valentine's for you all, dear readers and tweeps

Posted 14-Feb-2012 at 11:14 AM (11:14) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 14-Feb-2012 at 11:59 AM (11:59) by Gurdur

I'm in a fairly moss-gathering mood as usual, and I thought I would do all of you a Valentine's card, and this is it. Gandalf in Lord Of The Rings describes Tom Bombadil as a moss-gatherer, and I'm a fair bit that way myself. In my recent post I said I didn't often do special days, but hey, some things are worth noting, yes? Since I feel like it, I'll return to my synaesthesia roots for this post, and mix music-videos, text and photos throughout this post. So be patient and look past the videos...
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Science-fiction author John Christopher has died

Posted 09-Feb-2012 at 09:19 AM (09:19) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 09-Feb-2012 at 12:18 PM (12:18) by Gurdur

SF author John Christopher has died, on last Friday, 03 February 2012, at the age of 89. He was an enormously productive author, writing under a range of pseudonyms - his actual real name is Christopher Samuel Youd, but he wrote under Samuel Youd, John Christopher, Stanley Winchester, Hilary Ford, William Godfrey, William Vine, Peter Graaf, Peter Nichols, and Anthony Rye. His best-known books are probably The White Mountains trilogy, owing to that having been filmed by the BBC in an incomplete series....
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Musings on gender & cultural differences in the narrative

Posted 05-Feb-2012 at 12:05 AM (00:05) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 05-Feb-2012 at 01:43 AM (01:43) by Gurdur

The narrative is more controversial than you might think; there's one of those periodic spats about using narrative going on at the moment in the blogosphere in relation to history of science, and some still do not see that narrative pretty much underlies every way humans talk about anything - even the argumentive and demonstrative rhetorical modes have their own narrational structure and premises. Peter Medawar famously pointed that out for science in his "Is the scientific paper a fraud?". This...
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