I was surprised to hear that it is no longer permissible to climb Uluru

From October 2018, it will no longer permissible to climb Uluru. I was quite surprised to hear this, as it had been my understanding that it was already illegal. Apparently that was a request from the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land. Now it will actually be enforced. (This decision was made by the board of the local national park, not by central government.)

As a side-note, “traditional owners” is an interesting term. I think I first heard the concept expressed this way a few weeks ago, watching an address by President Michel D. Higgins to the University of Melbourne, where he was awarded an honorary degree. Allan Myers, the Chancellor of the University, opened events with an acknowledgement of “the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet”.

An excerpt from “The Cure at Troy”

From “The Cure at Troy” by Seamus Heaney

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted or endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker’s father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

Deaf Studies: After the third day of classes

Exciting times. This morning opened with our second ISL class — our first without an interpreter. We were mainly refreshing our knowledge of the alphabet by dint of spelling out our own and each other’s names, and also where we’re from.1 (This may also help with getting to know each other.) We also covered some basic vocabulary, such as most of the question words (What and Why and When and How and Where and Who) and a few other bits and bobs.2

After class, and lab work (recording ourselves again, in a bit more detail this time), I had a clinic appointment with IT Services. It took a bit of back and forth, but I finally have access to campus wifi, to my TCD e-mail, and to Blackboard (an online system for accessing lecture notes), and can request library books from the stacks (I do intend to abuse my access to the largest library in Ireland, and to read a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with my course).

And then, this evening, we had John Bosco Conama again, this time for Perspectives on Deafness. The two courses he’s teaching — Working with the Deaf Community and Perspectives on Deafness, have a definite overlap, but seem to be approaching their topics from different angles.3 We spent a lot of this introductory class discussing terminology: Deaf, hearing impaired, hard-of-hearing, deafened, profoundly deaf, etc.

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Charlotte Brontë, feminist

The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, originally published under gender-ambiguous pseudonyms, as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Ellis Bell’s Wuthering Heights was republished under Emily Brontë’s real name shortly after her death. At the beginning, Charlotte Brontë wrote a biographical note on Emily and Anne, now both dead. It included this note on their choice of pseudonyms:

Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called “feminine” — we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality and, for their reward, a flattery which is not true praise.

The biographical note is followed by an editor’s preface, also by Charlotte Brontë. Talking about the qualities of constancy and tenderness in the characters of the novel, she wrote,

Some people will think these qualities do not shine so well incarnate in a man as they would do in a woman, but Ellis Bell could never be brought to comprehend this notion: nothing moved her more than any insinuation that the faithfulness and clemency, the long-suffering and loving kindness which are esteemed virtues in the daughters of Eve, become foibles in the sons of Adam. She held that mercy and forgiveness are the divinest attributes of the Great Being who made both man and woman, and that what clothes the Godhead in glory, can disgrace no form of feeble humanity.

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Ireland: a nation

I don’t think people who aren’t from this island realize the extent to which Ireland really is one nation, even if it’s two different jurisdictions. The vast majority of sporting, religious, and other cultural bodies in Ireland operate on an all-Ireland basis.

In sports like rugby, there is a single national team for the whole of Ireland. In sports which don’t generally have national teams, such as golf and showjumping, the organization is nonetheless on an all-Ireland cross-border basis. Association football (soccer) is an exception. (I think the sole exception, though I’m not sure about sports like gymnastics.) The Gaelic Athletic Association also of course operates on an all-Ireland basis, and that too doesn’t generally have national teams. (There actually are national teams, in International Rules Football, Compromise Rules Shinty-Hurling, and Rounders, but none of these contests are the pinnacles of their sports.)

The Irish Shows Association, which organizes agricultural shows, is all-Ireland. So is the Association of Irish Musical Societies, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland, and many others. On the Wikipedia category list “All-Ireland organizations“, I also see the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation, the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies, the Irish Museums Association, the Geographical Society of Ireland, and the Irish Council of Churches. There are also a few trade union bodies: the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland, and SIPTU, and one professional body: Accounting Technicians Ireland. There’s also the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which also operates in Great Britain, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

There are even government departments which operate across the island, under the aegis of the North/South Ministerial Council. One that I am aware of is Waterways Ireland, responsible for the management and upkeep of internal navigable waterways (canals and rivers) across the island, because their headquarters on the Grand Canal are in Tullamore, a stone’s throw from my house. There is therefore a sign up on Harbour Street in three languages: Waterways Ireland, Uisceabhealaí Éireann, Watterweys Airlann.

Female Wizards on the Discworld

I have a theory about female wizards on the Discworld, which is just about possible to defend on the basis of the first three books (The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Equal Rites), but which also owes something to much later ones (The Last Continent and Unseen Academicals).

Unseen University is the Discworld’s premier college of magic (in its own mind, at least); not the only one. We already know there are wizards on Krull, which is almost completely separate from the rest of the Disc. We know that at least one of them (Marchessa) was female, and that this was not remarked on.

Buggarup University in XXX is another example of a separate college of magic, though it too is all-male.

In Unseen Academicals, we see that in fact Unseen University has rivals not only in places separated from the rest of the Disc, but also on the main supercontinent. The UU Dean has just set one up in Quirm; there’s a visiting professor from one in Genua; and I recall hints that there are others, with long-standing rivalries between them. (And Ponder Stibbons can play academic politics as well as anyone, thank you very much!)

We also see that there are differences in academic culture. UU wizards must be celibate (there’s a hint in The Colour of Magic (and again in Sourcery) that it’s only straight sex which is outlawed, but the possibilities thereby left open are never explored. This does not appear to be the case in Genua. When Ridcully heard that a Genuan wizard had been “named in divorce proceedings”, he just assumed that the Genuans didn’t prohibit their wizards having sex with women. He had to be explicitly told that in this case it was gay sex.

So UU has a “straight sex explicitly outlawed” and “gay sex doesn’t happen, does it?” culture, but accepts that other universities have different cultures. The one in Krull even accepts women, and did even before Esk’s time. Maybe others do too? Maybe, in fact, UU is the sole remaining holdout?


Experts and Expertese

I have a great deal of respect for experts. Actual, real, honest-to-goodness experts. The people who have written theses. The people who put massive amounts of work into coming up with original ideas, then do their very best to poke holes in them before publishing them. The people who will graciously admit defeat when they’re proven to be wrong, and will carry on working, carry on developing new ideas. I have a great deal of respect for the scientific method and for scientists themselves. And I know it doesn’t always work like that, but it does often enough.

And what really annoys me, what really gets me going, is seeing that respect misappropriated by “psychic healers” and similar bullshit artists. Those people dream up ideas which sound good, but are disdainful of the tools humanity has painstakingly developed over centuries for checking whether ideas are true. In fact, in many cases, they seem to not even care whether or not their ideas are true. It is dispiriting to see such people given respect that is not their due.

The utter contempt these scam artists have for the real experts, the people who put their life’s work into working out how the world really works, is the rudeness.

And besides all that, there’s the issue of how dangerous these people can be. Should I mention vaccines?

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Dublin LGBT Pride was asking for feedback. I gave them some.

I will say that I didn’t go to the remembrance ceremony this year, after being utterly disgusted with it the year before last.

There’s nothing wrong with religious ceremonies. It is, however, utterly disgusting to foist them on an unsuspecting audience. The ceremony was in no wise advertised as religious, and I attended in good faith, expecting something that would be respectful and which I would be happy to observe.

First, I was handed a candle, asked to participate. Well, okay, I suppose. I held the candle, still expecting something open and respectful.

And then suddenly we were in the middle of prayer and talks of heaven. Let me make one thing very clear: Praying on other people’s behalf, claiming to represent other people in prayer without their explicit consent, is fucking rude and extremely exploitative. Let me make another thing clear: Inviting people to attend an open ceremony and suddenly making it explicitly Christian with no warning is a rather nasty bait-and-switch tactic. I don’t know who organised and ran this event, but I have no respect for them whatsoever, as they clearly had no respect for the people they conned into attending with their dishonest advertising.

These are all general concerns. One other thing from a more specifically LGBT perspective: Many there have been hurt, seriously hurt, by the church. That doesn’t mean that many LGBT people are not still religious, and there is certainly a place for religious LGBT commemorations. It does mean, though, that tricking people into participating in a religious service when they were not expecting it is likely to be more hurtful to LGBT people than it would be to others.

I put down the candle smartly enough, as I did not want to be marked as participating in any religious ceremony, but I did not immediately leave. I don’t mind observing religious ceremonies, and I was hopeful that we would soon move onto more of the “remembering” bits. I was hoping for some anecdotes about much-loved and much-missed friends and activists. (Not my personal friends, as none of my LGBT friends have yet died, but still. I was there mainly to show support.) But no, the religious language went on and on, with quite a lot of “we” language, presumptuously intending to include us all in the prayers, and claiming to speak on all our behalfs. I soon got pretty sick of it, and left along with my friend. Others were leaving too.

I was utterly disgusted by the entire débâcle.