Purely a figment of your imagination

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


Warning: may contain warnings

Trigger warnings! People are still talking about them.

Edit 2016: especially when the University of Chicago does this

As I think I’ve said before, I prefer terms like “content note” or just NB/ or similar, as I have read convincing arguments that the very use of the words “trigger warning” can be kind of self-defeating, so maybe it’s better to avoid that. Although whether “TW” may have the same effect, I’m not sure. Not my point.

What warning?

I’m talking about little notes at the start of something – a piece of writing or a talk, or a post in (for example) a facebook group – that gives people a heads-up about the content. It might be “Content note: disordered eating” or “TW: rape” or similar. The point is that if people aren’t in an appropriate state to deal with that or prefer it not creeping up on them unannounced, they don’t need to -just to let them know so they’re better prepared when it comes up.

What’s the problem? Continue reading



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


Women and sexism in STEM

STEMNETLast week I tried to explain to someone whom I saw adding to abuse directed at a woman on Twitter why that’s a very bad thing for a STEM Ambassador to be doing – once I noticed that they shared that voluntary occupation in their bio.


STEM is now a popular acronym that describes “Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths” – the sciences and their applied disciplines, essentially. Some like to add another M for Medicine but I think that’s covered by Science and Technology, really. Separate debate.

What is not worth debating is whether women are disadvantaged, underrepresented, discriminated against and put off in these fields. It has been shown time and again, and I’ve placed links and references in this piece to demonstrate that. People with the ability to pay attention, women or otherwise, already know this. I intend this to be a resource to demonstrate this fact, and a push for people to try to tackle it however they see fit. Continue reading

1 Comment

Sexist “brand advice”? No thank you

Today’s rageblog is brought to you by sexism and racism in the worst analogy I’ve seen in a long time.

Phil Baty,  Times Higher Education and World University Rankings editor, picked up on this piece* on the THE news pages today. Having alerted the Everyday Sexism project, he rightly said that underneath the rubbish in this article lies a perfectly valid point about universities being encouraged to play to their strengths, whatever they happen to be, even if they are commonly overlooked in exercises like league table ranking. However, the analogy used is truly abysmal.

From the title: “Brand advice to rankings also-rans: find your own line of beauty” and sub-headline: “Universities told not to mope like teenage brunettes with blonde ambitions” we see that this is going to be about comparing Higher Education institution performance to expectations of female appearance. Sounds like a great idea! Apparently teenage girls with dark hair tend to “mope” because they wish they were blonde. OK then. I’m not even sure where that comes from, it barely makes sense. Ambitions to have a different hair colour are often easily rectified with some cheap, convenient chemical concoctions. That aside, there’s the assumption that this happens, and that if it does, it’s just what girls do – nothing to do with a sexist backdrop to our culture that consistently tells girls, from day 1, that their being beautiful is the main thing (and dictating what that “beauty” is).

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Learning Russian

I love languages, I think they’re fascinating things. However, being born and bred in England, where everything is in English and pretty much everyone speaks English all the time – in person, on the TV, on the radio – I had far less exposure to other languages than I would’ve liked, in retrospect.

While I don’t think this is a foolproof excuse for being monolingual (lots of British folk do learn more than their mother tongue), I think it’s a factor in how few of us learn and speak other languages confidently in the long term. It’s much easier to learn through immersion (being surrounded by a language) than picking up a book and listening to a tape, so English filtering into everyday life in other places must be a factor in locals’ ability to pick it up. I assume.

Having studied Latin at school to A level, German GCSE and a bit of French when I was much younger, I do have a continuing interest in linguistics even if I haven’t used my aptitude to its full potential, which I do regret sometimes.

Why Russian?

Continue reading


I am skeptical of your philosophy

There’s been another “schism” in the skeptical/atheist… movement/community/thing.

None of these labels ever really seem appropriate, particularly for atheism when the only thing everyone actually has in common is a lack of belief in any sort of supernatural being, particularly the ones that are objects of worship in human religions.

Through the semi-regular squabbles, I’ve tried to stay out of it for the most part. I don’t have to talk to people I don’t get on with, and generally I don’t. It’s better for my blood pressure that way. Sure I love a good discussion, if people disagree that’s fine, we’ll probably all learn something. But I do not feel obliged to actively engage with stupid people and their idiotic opinions all of the time. It’s pointless and it makes me ragier (yes it’s a word) than necessary.

Anyway. I don’t really want to go into detail about the particulars of the new factions forming or the quibbles about them, but rather have a more general think about the kinds of people in atheist/skeptic/humanist circles and what kinds of ideals are common, as well as apparently too rare. Edit: some atheists/skeptics are being nicely vocal in their opposition to misogyny in our communities.

Continue reading