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.


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:
"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, Xiŕngqí) 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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Unexpected narratives: sadnesses

Posted 04-Nov-2014 at 08:09 PM (20:09) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

I have to blog on the narrative, and what it means for people; it's much more important than many think to life, and to anything human, including history of science. So the next few blog posts of mine will be, in different ways, all about narrative and narratives - as well as control by narrators. First up though is an almost accidental thing; having bought the entire set of Breaking Bad episodes (5 seasons), I watched them all to the end. The very last scene of the last episode of the last season...
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Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.

Cathy Young, Anita Sarkeesian, and The Hunger Games

Posted 02-Nov-2014 at 07:38 AM (07:38) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 03-Nov-2014 at 08:00 AM (08:00) 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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Threats and gender-treason: #GamerGate goes weird.

Posted 31-Oct-2014 at 09:11 AM (09:11) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 31-Oct-2014 at 10:27 AM (10:27) by Gurdur

Most of you know about #GamerGate, the huge fuss going on inside the gamer communities. It's a controversy on which I've blogged before. Less than half a day ago, it got worse. Over Twitter and on his blog, Bobby Oliveira - @bobbyo1967 - accused the feminist scholar Christina H. Sommers of "gender treason", and threatened to keep on harassing her until Sommers denounced #GamerGate. If Bobby Oliveira could accomplish that, he threatened then to go further and to harass others until they too denounced...
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The bizarre smears used against Michael Nugent by PZ Myers & co.

Posted 11-Oct-2014 at 05:03 AM (05:03) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 13-Oct-2014 at 09:13 PM (21:13) by Gurdur

PZ Myers, an associate professor at a small college, and a minor albeit populist and influential figure in the world of atheism, bravely stood up to Mick Nugent, and broadcast that commentators on Nugent's blog included a whole lot of rapists. PZ Myers wasn't able to name one single rapist, not one single one, which made it all a bit of a mystery. But if PZ Myers claims there are rapists running rampant among the commentators on a blog, he must be right, or? It's just not possible PZ Myers could...
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A very sad day for #scicomm: Science Online to close down, cancels #scio15

Posted 10-Oct-2014 at 03:20 PM (15:20) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

In a fairly short statement, the Science Online board have said they will be closing down ScienceOnline, and cancelling the #scio15 conference planned for February. The statement is up here. While not totally unpredictable, this is a very sad day; most of us very much wanted #scioX to go on and go well.

Financial insolvency, and the inability to raise enough funds for a paid position of executive director, are among the grounds given. Of late the #scioX community at large was much...
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Ophelia Benson finds it "a little sickening"

Posted 10-Oct-2014 at 12:33 PM (12:33) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 10-Oct-2014 at 05:57 PM (17:57) by Gurdur

Ophelia Benson decided to take exception to a tweet of Christina H. Sommers'. Benson just didn't approve of what Sommers (@CHSommers) had sent out. Benson (@opheliabenson) in her blog post had the following to say:
"Christina Hoff Sommers is congratulating herself on playing a part in #GamerGate.
... [screen-capture image of Sommers' tweet snipped] ...
@Nero is an associate editor at Breitbart. Here’s what Anita Sarkeesian thinks of #GamerGate:
... [quote snipped] ...
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Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.

What on Earth, Center For Inquiry? CFI-DC Melody Hensley calls for boycott of Peter Boghossian over issue of PTSD from Twitter

Posted 25-Sep-2014 at 09:19 AM (09:19) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 26-Sep-2014 at 12:48 PM (12:48) by Gurdur

Melody Hensley (@MelodyHensley; please do not tweet at her unless you are sure your tweet is acceptable to her, since harassment of any kind is not tolerable) is the Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. branch of the Center For Inquiry, which says about itself that the "mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values". So we know where we stand, then. Last night, Melody Hensley called for all atheist and humanist...
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What Scotland's independence vote tomorrow - and the UKIP - could mean for science

Posted 18-Sep-2014 at 12:44 AM (00:44) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

Scotland votes tomorrow whether to go for eventual full independence, or to stay in the Union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. What does it all mean for science, especially science in Scotland? The science world is worried; some are putting off takig up professorial or research positions in Scotland until the result is known. There is also some discussion of it all in the science press, as for example here.

What I haven't yet seen is any discussion of the Scot independence...
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Why doesn't Žižek understand Orwell's 1984, or freedom?

Posted 17-Sep-2014 at 09:31 PM (21:31) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 17-Sep-2014 at 10:40 PM (22:40) by Gurdur

Slavoj Žižek misunderstands freedom and control. He doesn't get George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). Why is that, and why is it important, and what does it say about us all? Žižek (you can just call him Zizek) is one smart guy; he's a philosopher and culture critic who has quite often written on theological issues. He's quite famous these days (VICE magazine calls him a superstar), and he's proud of thinking dangerous ideas. We as a public need to be confronted with dangerous ideas, we need...
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Personal update

Posted 17-Sep-2014 at 09:05 PM (21:05) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 17-Sep-2014 at 09:11 PM (21:11) by Gurdur

I was very ill. I am now somewhat better. At least I have avoided so far needing to have any major operation done, which I find to be quite an accomplishment, since the past four years have been marked by needing to have at least one major operation done on me each year, along with more minor ops (still done though under general anesthetic).

It's going to take me a while to catch up with everything. I am sorry I have been absent for such a long time. Please bear with me as I slowly...
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Questions for the Longitude Prize

Posted 18-Jun-2014 at 09:45 PM (21:45) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)

I have written - elsewhere, on Medium - a post on some of the reaction to the Longitude Prize. I do have some questions for those managing the Longitude Prize; chiefly,
Is the public impact of the Longitude Prize being measured, and its impact over social-media being mapped (for example with Gephi)?

This seems to me to be an important part of measuring and enhancing the positive accomplishments of the Prize.



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An #ff for @RazaRumi - journalism, literature and culture in Pakistan

Posted 20-May-2014 at 12:44 AM (00:44) by Gurdur (Stranger In An Even Stranger Land)
Updated 16-Dec-2014 at 04:47 PM (16:47) by Gurdur

Raza Rumi is one of the courageous journalists in Pakistan who risks being murdered daily. He is also an editor and networker who has helped a good many other journalists and activists in Pakistan, and he has stood up at all times in the defence of minorities inside Pakistan, whether Ahmadis, Christians or whomever. Through his writing and his use of social media, he has consistantly promoted others and their own efforts. others such as Sana Saleem, and he has consistantly promoted Pakistani culture,...
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