Purely a figment of your imagination

What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz


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Fear, Anger, Hate, Suffering

It’s been an unbelievable few days and now I’ve stumbled home in a daze after shedding some tears at today’s news, I will try to collect myself here.

At the weekend we saw the massacre of 49 mainly Latinx LGBT+ people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando,FL. This act of homophobic terrorism shook the whole world and I walked down to Old Compton Street to be with the community at the vigil here in London and pay our respects.

Today one of our Labour MPs has been murdered by a man apparently shouting “Britain First” (the name of one of our openly racist and nationalist political groups). She was a passionate activist who was trying to serve people in her work. I did not know her, but friends did, and extremely high praise is all I have seen.

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Substituting for ‘crazy’

As I’m sure I’ve argued before, words really do matter in some contexts. They both reflect and define our realities, and can indicate to each other what we feel and think about things, as well as what’s acceptable in groups.

People might now switch off because “omg the PC police” but, try replacing “political correctness gone mad” with “people would like respect” and see how things look…

booksinsane

Yeah, no, it really isn’t

Today’s subject is the increased use of terms that usually reference mental ill-health being substituted for descriptors of the unusual and notable like baffling, unconscionable, inexplicable, astonishing, amazing, awesome, fantastic, brilliant, shocking, clever, super, awful, despicable, outrageous, indefensible, unfair – and many more besides; I am (sadly) not a thesaurus.

That’s a big range of stuff to throw words like crazy, insane, mad, batshit or mentally ill at. I think it’s more common in America (especially insane) but seems fairly ubiquitous now, especially in clickbait headlines (a root of many ills).

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On being a “digital academic”

It's me

It’s me

A colleague asked me why I “left science” last year. I don’t really feel like I have; my dayjob involves writing about the amazing research and related goings-on at the place where I completed my PhD. I still feel connected to science; I’m just not at the bench.

Perhaps I’m lying to myself, but I’ll run with it.

While I may not be a practicing academic, many friends and colleagues are. As I now (and, for the last 15-odd years, always have) spend a lot of time online and with social networking, I watched a Google Hangout that was run by jobs.ac.uk today: Being a successful Digital Academic.

People often fear social networks, but I’ve defended them before and will continue to do so. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without this blog, Twitter and the time I’ve spent on them, as well as the people I’ve met through them.

The hangout contained lots of useful tips for academics who are or might want to venture into the world of online chat, promotion and networking. You can find my notes here on Google Docs and the Piirus blog, too. Continue reading


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Charity Challenges

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge. More and more people are doing it – film you or a friend dumping a bucket of ice water on your head, post it online, make a donation to charity, and nominate some other people to do the same.

In the UK social media circles – due to a shift that probably happened in the US where this is a better-known disease perhaps because of Lou Gehrig, the famous baseball player who suffered – it seems the most common cause to donate to is for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research charities. ALS is a form of MND; a degenerative disease that leads to muscle degradation, paralysis and eventual suffocation. Our famous sufferer is Stephen Hawking.

The Wellcome Trust did a great video explaining the condition, for those who’d like to learn more:

A wonderful friend from university whom I have seen far too little of in recent years decided to nominate me yesterday as he took the challenge. Having done the right thing and made a cup of tea ready for the aftermath, he decided to donate to Ebola Epidemic Relief Fund. I’m sorry I haven’t been “a good sport” as he put it and made my own video, but you can watch his and, if you like, read on for some more thoughts on the phenomenon and my explanation of why I’ve decided to donate and write this instead.

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Prejudice itself isn’t the only problem

I’d say it’s more often about getting people to admit to it.

I actually don’t think “more people admit to racism” is necessarily a problem. In fact, in a way, I’d say that’s a good thing. Bear with me.

Avenue Q’s “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” may be comedic but it’s true. Power/context/history important – it’s a song though, not an essay.

Everyone internalises prejudice, it’s impossible not to when growing up in a society that has inequality. We’re all sexist because of the messages that objectify and diminish women and this being true through history. We’re all racist because of messages that other and categorise certain races, and the history of it.

So what is the real problem? It’s people who are deluded and think they are not part of it. We all are. By not calling things out we are complicit. By parroting things we know to be wrong and/or reductive and offensive, we are making sure those problems continue.

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Cancer selfie-awareness

I have to write about this, following some discussions.

I’ll start by saying that I obviously don’t have a problem with the concept of fundraising for cancer charities (having researched in a few places, now working at one and, y’know, being a human being). I’m not saying everyone who did it has missed the point, or shouldn’t have participated. I find the subject interesting; personally and professionally.

The questions I want to raise are generally more academic:

What is awareness? How effective are these campaigns/memes? What are the negatives, and do they matter?

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Healthy Evidence Forum

AskforEvidenceNHSchoicesSense About Science have launched a new discussion forum today, called Healthy Evidence:

“We are very pleased to tell you that NHS Choices Behind the Headlines have asked us to partner with them on a new online forum to help people understand the science behind health claims and connect them with expertise. Healthy Evidence is launched today. Join the community here.”

The more people that join and share their insights into the science behind health reporting, the better the resource could become. Collating useful sources can help people judge which information is beneficial rather than bogus, and what’s likely or dubious.

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