Purely a figment of your imagination

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


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QEDcon 2016

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Part of this year’s goodie bag – a QED sticker to adorn whatever you fancy

After about 13 hours of sleep post-QED, I started to write some words about it!

6 years in a row. A strange feeling walking back into a hotel room like one I stayed in 3 years ago, but quickly settling into familiarity, largely because of all the friendly faces to see and hugs to give/receive.

I haven’t been to many conventions in my time, but of those few, this skeptical event has to be the best by a long way.

Not just because the organisers are very talented and kind people I’m proud to call friends, or the consistently excellent, approachable and affable speakers, or because fellow attendees are a joy to be around (in all states of sobriety and so far from it). All of that and more.

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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…

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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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QEDcon 2015

As ever, the opening video didn’t disappoint – congratulations to all whose hard work made this tweaked Left Behind trailer funny and so technically impressive:

QED is my Christmas; or, what I imagine Christmas to be like for people who actually enjoy it. My family now is smaller than it was, and we do things our own way, so it’s better – but I’ve never been much of a fan. QEDcon is where I spend time with my chosen family, or most of them at least!

Topping 550 people in its 5th year, it had the same friendly, warm, welcoming and highly intoxicated atmosphere it always has. Continue reading


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Pool: a love letter

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Wonky-against-wall cueing in a Seattle bar

I love me a good game of pool. Or ten.

I’m not as good at it as I used to be; when I went to university to do my undergraduate degree, we had a free table in the student halls’ bar so naturally I’d go in there before lunch, after lunch, of an evening – whenever.

I wanted to get better at it. I did.

Pool isn’t one of those things people, as parents, tend to take their daughters to learn. To be fair, I did get karate, but my dad and his friends would go to the “Conservative Club” to play snooker; something entirely unsuitable for children on many levels, and I still can’t do it.

I had to make do with Jimmy White’s Whilrwind Snooker on the Amiga 500.

The real thing feels like trying to roll a football into bins at the corner of a pitch. I’m too short.

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On being a “digital academic”

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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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Seattle Down

This June I made my way over to the Pacific North-West to see a dear friend of mine who had to move away from London last year.

I had THE BEST TIME so here’s a series of photos of me enthusiastically pointing at cool stuff, in an homage to another friend, the now world-famous (or at least in Canada) James O’Malley, who pointed at all the Canadian things.

I didn’t want to do a video, so you’ll have to make do with this! I’ll write some stuff at the end for those who are interested but first, pictures…

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Death to “Banter”

Just a quick rant about one of my least favourite words today. See Edit II to read about what happened to a teacher’s protest on the subject.

In the last few years, “banter” has become an increasingly common excuse people trot out when they’re talking offensive crap and want to be let off the hook “because it’s just bants”.

Another meme that really needs to die on its arse ASAP

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