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.

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Here's looking at you. Wildlife in Tanzania

Posted 18-Mar-2015 at 01:02 PM (13:02) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

When photographing wildlife in Tanzania, a common problem was the wildlife would often turn its rear end to me, whether in flight or insult. I assembled quite a collection of animal butts, when I would have preferred face-on views. It got so that I picked out photos of mine where the animal is actually looking towards me, or at least not away. Below are a few of photos I selected at random out of the ones where the animal was facing me. All the below photos are from 2012, Tanzania. I will post others...
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My best photo of a mongoose as yet

Posted 18-Mar-2015 at 06:54 AM (06:54) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

I think this may be my best photo of a mongoose as yet. Of course luck played a huge role. Link to a much larger version. I took this photo from the back of a moving LandRover in the Serengeti region, Tanzania, on 23 November 2012.




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You won't find ISIS in the brain or genes. The Daily Beast tries to sell you an imaginary Brooklyn Bridge

Posted 17-Mar-2015 at 07:01 PM (19:01) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Some people have big problems living with uncertainty, so they like to drastically amputate parts of reality till they find a vision they can live with. Perhaps in line with that, David Ewing Duncan (@Duncande) has written an article on the Daily Beast, in which it is generally opined you may find ISIS in the brain, or the genes, or both. No clich remains unspurned in it, but it's the theology of the article that is the main problem. He starts off by saying:
Quote:
"Call it a tale of two brains:
...
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Legal action against the BlockBot team?

Posted 15-Mar-2015 at 09:17 PM (21:17) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Imagine if I was to make a public list. I could call it,
Quote:
"A list of pedophiles, rapists, and those who shield them in any way.
Plus anyone else I simply don't like."
Now imagine I put your name on that list, and I publicize it high and low. You of course furiously complain to me that you are neither a pedophile, nor a rapist, nor someone who shields any suchlike. I dismiss your complaint airily and say, I never called you pedophile, rapist or suchlike. You should have...
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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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Graham Linehan doesn't like this. So pass it around.

Posted 07-Mar-2015 at 01:01 PM (13:01) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

One of the necessities for a free and open society is good, in-depth, balanced news reporting. Digging down to find the truth and then to broadcast it is an essential activity for any society that prizes real equality, justice and diversity. Free and open discussion of issues is vital for a good society; and good reportage is indispensable for that.

Today, newspapers with their teams of reporters face economic meltdown, something which will impoverish us all, since we will lack...
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How Prof Brian Cox got sin-binned for having the 'wrong' wife; and what that means for us all.

Posted 26-Feb-2015 at 08:22 AM (08:22) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Laughably, Prof. Brian Cox - a household name in Britain in science-communication - was attacked for having the 'wrong' wife. Not so laughable at all though was the large-scale harassment directed against him by flamers. They also mounted a major campaign of harassment against another person who is also a household name in Britain for science-communication, Prof. Mary Beard. The personal attacks upon Cox about his wife were in the course of Cox' having tweeted in mild, polite support of an open letter ...
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Some success: VICE take down their HIV-denialist story. But they do it weirdly

Posted 18-Feb-2015 at 10:55 PM (22:55) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 18-Feb-2015 at 11:07 PM (23:07) by Gurdur

Success of a sort: VICE have taken down their HIV-denialist story. I blogged about that story here, and I protested (with others) to @Vice and @ViceUK. Our protests worked. The webpage for the story now has the following:

Quote:
"This article was mistakenly translated from another territory and has been removed."
What does that even mean? "Mistakenly translated from another territory"? I'll bet you the story was written in English first and foremost; see the writer's tweet...
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Supporting free speech - or wearing a fedora - can easily get you into trouble

Posted 18-Feb-2015 at 08:03 PM (20:03) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 18-Feb-2015 at 11:12 PM (23:12) by Gurdur

I wrote about the BlockBot and its history in my second-last blog post. In that post, while I did detail some of the attacks by the Blockbot group and their hangers-on against feminists, I did not go into two vital aspects: the deliberate attack by the BlockBot group on free speech overall as such, and why this is important. As said in my post on this before, the danger is of people adopting its block lists, or believing the false claim for the BlockBot that:
"Twitter is polluted by a number...
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HIV-denialism is resurrected - by VICE magazine

Posted 18-Feb-2015 at 08:39 AM (08:39) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 18-Feb-2015 at 05:19 PM (17:19) by Gurdur

Around 20 years ago, you could hear the whimpers of HIV-denialism being soundly driven into rout. Denialism of HIV usually took the form of denying that the HIV virus causes AIDS. Even though I often blog on health matters, and my Twitter circles include many scientists and medicos, I haven't heard any real HIV denialism except that reported from places such as South Africa (where political leaders had given a huge boost to denialism). It kills. People died needlessly, many, because of such denialism....
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The no-platforming of feminists in Britain, on Twitter and elsewhere; or, Why Paul Mason News UK has blocked several feminists, Lady Gaga and President Obama

Posted 17-Feb-2015 at 10:07 PM (22:07) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 17-Feb-2015 at 11:57 PM (23:57) by Gurdur

On Sunday, a letter, protesting in the name of free speech against the no-platforming of feminists, and signed by over a hundred British academics, activists, scientists and others, was published by the Observer. That letter was also signed by the very well-known Prof. Mary Beard (@wmarybeard) and Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell), both of whom came in for sustained attack and harassment on Twitter all Sunday and Monday - and the harassment continues. Prof. Mary Beard wrote a little about the attacks...
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Odd mirror-images in Ebola and measles debates

Posted 11-Feb-2015 at 07:17 PM (19:17) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 11-Feb-2015 at 07:36 PM (19:36) by Gurdur

One of the odd things I noticed watching the social-media brouhaha over the latest measles outbreak in the USA was an odd mirror-image of attitudes towards quarantine because of Ebola. People who were critical of strict quarantine measures in the USA regarding Ebola were suddenly quite harsh in wanting punitive measures to back up mandatory vaccination for measles. People who were all in favor of harsh quarantine measures against Ebola seem quite relaxed with regard to measles vaccination. Both...
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A new school of Islam based on ijtihad, the concept of critical thinking, rejecting extremism and fundamentalism?

Posted 21-Jan-2015 at 06:40 AM (06:40) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 21-Jan-2015 at 08:00 AM (08:00) by Gurdur

At the end of an article on the loose collection of those who try silencing anyone who challenges extremism, Asra Q. Nomani (@AsraNomani), an author and former Wall-Street-Journal reporter, proposed founding a new school of Islam based on ijtihad, the concept of critical thinking. Her article is here; she further gave a link to a new net site for this project, where another basic principle for this proposed new school of Islamic thought and law is given as adaab, good manners. Unfortunately, I...
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Authors, please don't do this on social-media. For your own sakes.

Posted 15-Jan-2015 at 11:28 PM (23:28) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Jan-2015 at 12:13 AM (00:13) 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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Thank-you, @Nature! A stand made for both science and society against terrorism

Posted 15-Jan-2015 at 10:01 PM (22:01) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Nature, the famous, international, weekly journal of science, made a strong stand on the Charlie Hebdo terrorism attack. Nature issued a statement pointing out that free "scientific thinking and satire both religious and political are crucial in challenging and undermining dogma and authoritarianism". The statement also contained:
Quote:
"The terrorists who murdered 17 people, including 8 staff members of the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, falsely claimed to act in the name
...
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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist) goes off the rails on the #Manoora case

Posted 23-Dec-2014 at 07:25 PM (19:25) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 23-Dec-2014 at 08:49 PM (20:49) by Gurdur

There was a very distressing incident a day or so ago. An Australian mother, Raina Thaiday, is accused of having "stabbed seven of her own nine children, and a niece. The victims ranged in age from two to fourteen". This happened within the Torres Strait Islander community in Manoora, Queensland, Australia. The mother is charged with having murdered "three of her daughters, aged 2, 11 and 12, four of her sons, aged 5, 6, 8 and 9, and her 14-year-old niece".

Psychosis happens. Look...
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The Pakistan situation after the #PeshawarAttack

Posted 17-Dec-2014 at 08:02 PM (20:02) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 17-Dec-2014 at 08:29 PM (20:29) by Gurdur

Nothing points to the moral and practical insanity widespread in Pakistan more than the example of the Afghanistan Taliban condemning the Pakistan Taliban for the murder of over 141 innocents, mostly children. One gang of murderers condemning another gang of murderers for murder. In the context of the latest Peshawar attack, also pointing to that moral and practical insanity are the examples of some demanding CNN stop creating a "false image of Pakistan", because those people forget Malala Yousafzai,...
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The gamification of human society and control: Modelling markets, protest, regulation, cooperation, planning and freedom

Posted 11-Dec-2014 at 04:06 PM (16:06) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 11-Dec-2014 at 06:28 PM (18:28) 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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Evolutionary Forecasting. Because your money AND your life.

Posted 12-Nov-2014 at 10:35 PM (22:35) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 12-Nov-2014 at 11:02 PM (23:02) by Gurdur

Evolutionary forecasting is the new name given to predicting what genetic changes might happen to a whole population. So it's looking at how statistically a total population changes, at what bundle of traits might change with respect to the percent of each trait, and at what new traits might come into being, and what other traits might die out. Is it important? Only if both your money and your life matter to you!

In the years 1918 to 1921, no less than at least 50 million people died...
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Spoiling the narrative: #Gawker, lizzyf620 and #SockpuppetConfessions

Posted 04-Nov-2014 at 11:45 PM (23:45) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 05-Nov-2014 at 12:48 AM (00:48) by Gurdur

This is the second in a highly non-connected series of posts I'm doing on narrative. We are Pan narrans, the story-telling chimpanzee; if you or I work really hard at it, we might make it to being Homo sapiens. And yes, narrative is highly important - more than you know - to both science and to the history of science as it is presented. Even unto the neurophysical side! Narrativium rules OK! But let's leave the baffling-with-science bit for the next blog post, and let's look at competing narratives,...
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