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 politics of pronouns, the language of abuse and democracy

Posted 19-May-2016 at 09:32 PM (21:32) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

You can make anything political, from cheese to pronouns. Whether you can do that in any worthwhile way is a different matter. An exchange on Twitter caught my eye, since it touched upon linguistics. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) is demanding that employers, landlords, professionals and 'all businesses' in New York City ask people their preferred gender pronoun from their first interaction. It appears the NYCCHR is also prescribing what pronounds can be used; in other words,...
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A short, true story not really about cults and deprogramming

Posted 06-Apr-2016 at 09:23 AM (09:23) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

A long while ago, deprogramming was a real fad. People made their livings from offering it 'professionally', or from writing about it (both for and against), or from writing or politicking about the cause of the deprogramming fad, the rise of certain religious and quasi-religious cults. In response to that, and to a recent exchange on Twitter, what I offer here is a true story, and a cautionary one. All it will do is illustrate that life can be very complex, and that simple answers can be utterly...
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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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Interest in science is cyclically regular, but declining

Posted 24-Nov-2015 at 02:46 PM (14:46) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Just for fun, I did a Google Trends search for "science" versus "fiction". The results show worldwide that science as a search term is strongly cyclical, but declining over time since 2005. What to me is strange is how the results for the USA alone are very regular in cyclicity indeed. Interest in science dips to lowest every July, and peak every September and January. Not being in the USA, I have no idea why; I suspect science-project competitions or the like. Meanwhile, interest in fiction remains...
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Neither Salon nor Michael Kimmel will help you understand rampage killers at all

Posted 30-Jul-2015 at 05:04 PM (17:04) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Salon won't help you understand rampage killings at all. What's worse, neither will Michael Kimmel, an American sociologist. Salon published an excerpt from his book, "Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era". In that excerpt, he tells us all that:
"Let’s be clear: just as we cannot understand rampage school shootings by focusing on the fact that they are always committed by boys, neither can we understand these cases simply by recognizing that they’re all men."
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The women nobody wants to see: public virtues and private viciousness

Posted 04-Jul-2015 at 12:10 PM (12:10) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

There are women who are very much in the news without being in the news. In an enforced black-hole of public memory and sanctimony, their presence is only obvious because of people refusing to admit their existence. Let's cover some examples here. A few years ago I supported a woman who had been accused of fortune-telling and of inciting a mob to destroy a crocodile sanctuary. Those who leaped upon the bandwagon to denounce her didn't even know she was a woman. Her being a person, let alone a...
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Frustrations and the #GE2015 UK election

Posted 12-May-2015 at 01:48 PM (13:48) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Tags ,

It's not bad enough that the opposition failed to put up a credible election campaign in the British general elections, but after the full scale of the defeat became apparent, some decided to make it worse. First off, there were a few who decided to get violent at an anti-austerity demonstration in London - after someone had vandalized a memorial sculpture which was built in honour of women in WW2. There were a few Socialist Workers Party (SWP) members at the demonstration, which is what I assume...
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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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Talking about evolution

Posted 10-Apr-2015 at 01:09 AM (01:09) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Evolution happens, but it's not a simple thing at all, and it's often burdened with projection and myths by people with agendas. Evolution only really gets interesting once we talk about complex things; and those things are the hardest to explain, of course. One of the most comon agendas driving myths about evolution is based on the myth that simple answers can be given off-the-cuff to complex questions, which is of course wrong. One book that really helped me begin understanding evolution is a...
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The Garissa terrorism attack by Al-Shabaab in Kenya, and its context

Posted 08-Apr-2015 at 03:23 PM (15:23) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Six days ago, Al Shabaab gunmen entered Garissa University and murdered at least 148 people. The initial death toll was reported as 147, thus the hashtag #147NotJustANumber, which was created by Kenyans to honor the murder victims. The terrorists had taken over 700 as hostages, then let most of the Muslim students go, and ended up murdering 149, mostly Christian students aged between 19 and 23. At least one Muslim was also murdered by the Al Shabaab terrorists.

Al Shabaab is an Islamist,...
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How to make a complaint and/or claim under the British Data Protection Act re the BlockBot team

Posted 28-Mar-2015 at 04:07 PM (16:07) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

If you are resident in Britain, the Data Protection Act, 1998, and small-claims-court proceedings, can often be an easy and cheap way of stopping someone from misusing your data. That applies to the present situation with the BlockBot, if the Blockbot team have appended false allegations about you to their blacklisting of you on their BlockBot list, including with your real name or any clear connection to your real name. A similar avenue of redress exists in Ireland too. Here is some official information...
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The "invisible wife", Gia Milinovich, who was slurred as the "wrong wife", was blacklisted on the BlockBot for objecting to racism

Posted 28-Mar-2015 at 04:02 PM (16:02) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Gia Milinovich (@giagia) was a successful science-communication professional on British TV in her own right well before she married Prof. Brian Cox (@drbriancox). She has written about her experience of becoming an "invisible wife" once Brian Cox became famous. What then adds insult to injury is when flamers and BlockBot team members such as Sarah Brown (@auntysarah) attempted to browbeat Brian Cox into remonstrating with his own wife merely for her uttering uncontroversial opinions over Twitter....
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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.

         Pin It         


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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", with no quote marks. Please give your name or pseudonym in the Comment box provided; failure to give a name or pseudonym can mean that in the case of abuse or empty flames I will be even less likely to allow the comment to be shown. I also like to know with whom I'm talking. A name or pseudonym is not essential; but it does help.

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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 cliché remains unspurned in it, but it's the theology of the article that is the main problem. He starts off by saying:
"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,
"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 12:01 PM (12:01) 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 07:22 AM (07:22) 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 09:55 PM (21:55) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 18-Feb-2015 at 10:07 PM (22:07) 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:

"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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