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Showing posts from December, 2012

The Obligatory New Year's Eve Post (trigger warning for mention of suicide)

It's that time of year again - otherwise known as the last day of the year, or an incredibly arbitrary decision to start one new orbit of the earth around the sun after having completed one old orbit. Anyone going to shed any tears?

I know I'm not. Partly because I cry too much, partly because I don't have enough energy to cry as much as I used to, and partly because this year hasn't been worth crying over.

Don't get me wrong; it started off well. I was happy, I was content, I was doing well in my studies and it turned out that the wonderful, amazing guy I'd fallen for late in 2011 had somehow fallen for me too - and then we ended up getting together. I'm a lucky, lucky lady.

I also have the bad luck to suffer from depression and as spring turned into summer, my mood started to deteriorate. (I feel guilty talking about this, though, as other people I know were going through far worse.) By happy accident, I was also taking my GCSE exams (and one stray AS lev…

Poetry In Translation

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I really hate poetry in translation, to be honest.

A lot of people might think that that's an overreaction, and frankly I wouldn't blame them. Yes, it's always so much nicer to be able to read in the original language, but if you can't do that a translation will suffice.

Right?

Wrong.

I don't know how many people reading this appreciate the differences between languages - but they can be huge. I can understand English, Latin, French and Hebrew and each of them has a different way of describing an experience. Latin will quite happily mess around with syntax and uses tense and mood to powerful, precise effect; French has concepts that are difficult to translate into English, as does German; Hebrew is highly inflected, in some cases even more so than Latin as it uses a stupid amount of different forms for the second person singular pronoun depending on gender and context and uses this to great effect - for example, at times it can distinguish between concept and reali…

On Beauty

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I think a lot of us are aesthetes and just don't want to admit it.

Well, a lot of us are aesthetes and do want to admit it: artists, designers and anyone who appreciates their work all qualify. Anyone who takes presentation of work and the beauty of something essentially functional into account loves beauty; anyone who spends time making themselves look better loves beauty. Our fucked-up attitude to attractiveness and the good doesn't help, either, since we assume that whatever is beautiful is good - or at least, that whatever is beautiful is more likely to be good.

At least, that's my cynical opinion. I don't think we can really escape the societal fascination with beauty.

This is where I run into the objections of people who like plainness, who say that they care more about the words on a page than whether they look pretty, who take a certain pride in not being vain and doing unnecessary things to themselves - and let's face it, a lot of things we do to ourselve…

The Lie: Evolution - Prologue to the Snark

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While at school one day, going to put my books in my locker, my friend thrust a book he'd found in the school library into my hands.

I was quite perplexed. This friend of mine studies biology and is an avowed atheist, so why had he shoved creationist propaganda at me?

Unbeknownst to me, it was a sign...No, it wasn't really a sign. It was my friend messing around with my mind as normal and teasing me. But when someone gives me as much snark fuel as this, I'm not going to pass up the opportunity!

Let's start with the cover first, shall we? I know exactly what it's supposed to represent, because it isn't exactly subtle: the snake is offering us the forbidden fruit of evolution, which as the title boldly proclaims, is a LIE. It can't just be a simple little lowercase lie, oh no: it's got to be in ALL CAPS to express just how much of a lie it is.

As much as I know all that, all I can think of is how damn nommy that apple looks.

A quick look at the "Abo…

Gamifying and Crowdsourcing Academia

That already sounds like a boring title, doesn't it? Quantum Jesus on a pogo stick, I'm not even 17 yet and I already sound like a miserable, middle-aged academic. And you know what one of the saddest things is? This could probably be one of the best things to happen to academia in a long while.

If you're not interested in academia, I'll admit my weaknesses now and say there's probably no way I can make you interested. It's not so much that it's a dry and uninteresting area so much as if you already think it's dry and uninteresting you're probably not the kind of person who would care about the ability of many people to crack problems that computers and individuals have problems doing, and just how you'd get people to do that.

For those of you who are interested, though, keep reading!

I'm interested in gamifying and crowdsourcing all academia for a couple of reasons; I know it happens in the sciences and maths, but (with the exception of the…

Why Learn?

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Why learn?

Because learning teaches you about the fucking Solar System, that's why.

Okay, that wasn't actually my answer, but that picture does actually have a purpose...Well, sort of...Well, it'll explain itself in a bit.

Doing A-levels I get a bit more of a challenge than I did at GCSE, and having Latin lessons that half consist of a long chat about the way Ancient Greece and Rome have influenced the Western world gets me thinking about education and what it means to us. You start your edumacation - so we say over here - when you're three and you end it when you get your degree in your early twenties, unless you're some kind of freak who wants to do a Master's or a PhD. Reading is a scary uncool thing and only nerds do it for fun, which is why we bully them. Still, you've got to have some kind of edumacation if you want to be successful (read: make lots and lots of money) in this world, and if you don't want to be successful you're a freak. Who d…

The End of the World

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This is a load of pseudo-philosophical wank because ends, particularly ends that you can't do anything about, inspire a lot of angst in people. Well, in me at least.

I don't actually believe that the world is going to end today, being as I am sceptical of such matters - and if the world does end, no-one will be around to read my stupid blog anyway, so technically I could put whatever crap I wanted here as an end-of-the-world special.

Terrible idea, that, but I'm running with it.

The thing is, as shitty as the world is, I don't want it to end - just like that - bam - over. As much as I've said in the past that I want to commit suicide, I don't want to die right now, not when things might actually be looking up, and not when I haven't yet lived.

That's another thing. I'm not even seventeen yet. I've done sweet fuck all with my life, because what teenager does?! The years pass slowly for us; we spend most of our time at school, bunking school, work…

The Revolution will be Snarky

I don't know about you, but I think we need to find new ways to get shit done.

I don't know about this either, but I think a good way to get shit done involves snark. Lots and lots of snark.

You might be wondering how exactly snark can help a revolution. They're not exactly two things you think of as going together, after all - and snark doesn't take anything seriously. Surely that's antithetical to effective revolt?

Well...no, not really. Sometimes, taking things too seriously can be dangerous - both to your ideas and to your health. You get bogged down in discussing the finer points of this or that action, or you burn yourself out trying to be everything to everyone and feeling guilty that you're not doing enough. It's not reactionary or slavish to say that sometimes you need to step back and laugh. There can be no revolution if anyone who could be revolting is burnt out or paralysed by guilt and fear.

Humour is also a very powerful way to discredit your …

The Value of Classics

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(I should note here that when I talk about classics, I mean the study of Latin and Greek language and culture. Despite efforts to separate all these, it turns out to be impossible - particularly at higher levels.)

It's actually quite hard to defend the value of studying ancient languages and dead cultures, and despite being inclined to classics I would say there are many, many good reasons for that. They're long dead and gone, and besides, they're pretty elitist. Greek and Roman culture were shaped by long-dead white cis males, with their ableist, misogynistic, racist attitudes; in a way, studying them without recognising their flaws perpetuates that, and studying Greek and Roman culture to the exclusion of other cultures marginalises a significant number of worldviews out there. Studying Latin and Greek has traditionally been the preserve of the rich, and most of the academics at work are rather privileged people (let's put it that way).

Perhaps all that would be for…

Ideologies and Ideas

First of all, I'm very sorry for not posting. I have been busy and stressed the past few weeks - I'm not dead, just up to my eyeballs in work.

My argument is very simple: we need ideas, not ideologies.

I am too sick and too tired to dress this up further, so here I go. Ideologies are sets of ideas - think capitalism, communism, fascism, socialism...I'm sure you can provide me with a plethora of examples, and I don't intend to list them all here. They are pretty comprehensive as sets of ideas go, which is quite advantageous for those who don't want to actually think about what they're doing and also advantageous for the lonely: if you label yourself as something, be it anarchist, libertarian, conservative or whatever, you'll find groups that profess to share your views and feel a bit like you belong.

The trouble is, by being comprehensive ideologies can also be rigid - you have to do this if you profess that ideology. Being comprehensive also isn't good …

Full of Hot Air

I really hate it when TV presenters are the face of science programmes.

You might be wondering why I actually care enough to make an entire blog post about that. Firstly, I should probably put things into perspective and combat the ills of society, and secondly, I should probably get a life. That said, this post (hopefully) develops into something vaguely important.

The thing is, as a general rule TV presenters know nothing, or very little, about science. A programme may try to remedy this by interviewing actual scientists working in the field, but it still seems to come off as some Z-list media personality talking to the token egghead that they have to put in because it's about science and they have to make sure that it's factually correct, if grossly oversimplified. This does really not help public understanding of science - which is already sorely lacking.

It's absolutely infuriating: people who know nothing about science get to show off some "gee whiz!" scien…

"It doesn't happen anymore."

It doesn't happen anymore. Once upon a time, we lived in a horrible world of racism, sexism, homophobia and slavery, but then we had the abolition of the slave trade, the civil rights movement, women's lib and LGBT rights, and now everything's mostly okay for the average straight, white, cis, abled, middle-class person. Well, mostly. Those poor straight white men are being oppressed by evil, hairy-legged feminists and reverse racism, and let's not forget how hard-working Joe Citizen is being squeezed by having to - gasp! - have some of his taxes go to aiding people. Clearly everyone has it (mostly) just fine.

Well...no. Look harder. Look at who's living in which areas, who's doing which jobs (or not) and what they're being paid. Look at what they don't tell you: what does the news not cover? Who does the news ignore? Look bigger, too: what's happening around the world? Who makes your clothes? Who makes the bed? Who drives minicabs? Who gets stereoty…