Arguing with people on the internetz

Here’s a thing that turned up in my tumblr feed:

tumblr convo

This is my would-be response:

Another point is that public engagement of STEM is very much a thing that is happening. Dissemination is important to the continuation of research, especially if you are state-funded, because you have to prove what your work can do for society. One way that this has been done with a decent amount of success (judging from feedback) is introducing scientists and their lives alongside the science, as this makes them and their work seem more relatable to non-scientists. Research and researchers already exist in something akin to a bubble without the need for any help to remove them further from the consumers of science.

If sexuality didn’t matter in the first place – i.e. there was no discrimination based on orientation to begin with – then we can question why people suddenly cared. The matter of fact is that sexuality and gender are both factors that affect a person’s standpoint and potential for advancement in science as well as academia (and LIFE). Even if we were to place such importance on “quantifiable repeatable cold hard science”, there are people behind the science who work very hard and deserve a bit of sympathy for their hardships. No scientists, no new science (explained for human consumption; if science was a sentient being, who knows if it would care about us puny humans).

There’s also the possibility that I’m responding to somebody who simply is an unsympathetic killjoy, but never mind.

(I feel I should also add that my response is purposefully placing science on the pedestal used by the tumblr-user ibringyoulove… what irony. Even those of us with all the privileges afforded us by social norms have down days in the lab. Let’s just all care a bit more about each other, okay?)

Anybody else wish to take up the thread?

Two Things

Thing One: For what its worth (i.e. my tiny little outlet versus their huge one, but I made a promise to rally for contributors a long time ago…), I know that Public History Commons are looking for contributors to their History@Work series. The stories there tell of fascinating tales of researchers’ quests to find more history. Go have a look! Perhaps you’ll be interested in sharing your own experiences.

Thing Two: Yet another promise that has been dragging on: telling you about Tokyo. As a partial historian I should really have gone to Kyoto, or so they said, but that will have to wait until next time! Let’s ease ourselves in with three moments.

1. A chunk of Tokyo seen from the observatory on top of the Metropolitan Government Building (it’s free to go up there! They have friendly guides who sometimes get accosted by inquisitive tourists who keep asking questions and won’t let them them stick to the script!). Hint: Mt Fuji is not in this picture, so don’t bother looking for it. It was such a hazy day anyway you could only barely make out the snow-covered top in the distance.

2. Tokyo Science Museum. The one close to Budokan in Kitanomaru Park, if you find that easier to navigate. In short, this was very child-friendly and not at all adult-friendly. The picture shows an exhibit on the smartphone and all the machinery it can replace. That exhibit was my favourite. That said, if you are after a sciency museum, and are a party of adults, I suggest trying the one in Ueno, which my hosts were raving about; and if you’re looking for a museumy experience in Kitanomaru Park, MoMA Tokyo is my tip. (Or if you happen to share my profession, the, er, National Archives of Japan are also around the corner from Budokan.)

3. Cherry blossoms. These ones in Shinjuku Gyoen. They timed the symposium perfectly for us, and I am incredibly grateful for the hosts’ consideration. There were a lot of pinker ones, but I thought these whiter ones came out so nicely under the sun.

Greetings from Japan/placeholder

…and the Popularizing Science in the East and West Symposium at the University of Tokyo. It was two days of extremely (bordering on tiring) thought-provoking discussion on the popularisation of science in, primarily, Japan and the United Kingdom, covering all manner of topics from radium in hot springs to the fact that museums of the 19th century were hard-pressed to turn a profit.

I would have live-blogged both content and my presence as a rookie at this symposium, were it not for the information/inspiration overload and a well-planned social schedule, but I vow to bring you both the academic and the leisurely parts of this stay as soon as I have landed back home. In the meantime…

…enjoy this view from the park on Komaba campus.

Low energy…

…happens when there are a lot of things to do, and one is uncharacteristically unwell. (I generally take pride in my diamond-hard immune system.) Though there are, of course, small tidbits from life that are worth looking at anyway, especially in these times when people around me are talking about postdocs and what they want to do after their PhDs.

On one of the billion mailing lists I am on, there was recently a listing for a freelance vacancy (I shall spare the excess of details) as a press-release writer. This was specifically declared as a “PAID” position, with the word written in capitals. The matter of unpaid internships as such has been thoroughly debated in the online world already, but since when could a freelance opportunity be unpaid? Or was the “PAID” aspect of the position advertised as thus, in order to attract more freelancers? Would a freelancer consider a post if it was unpaid?


Putting the money where your mouth is

Happy end-of-January! We all like to be reminded of the flighty transience of time, do we not? (Answer: we really don’t.) In order to avoid that particular reality, I like to focus on the tiny, perhaps inconsequential aspects of daily life, if only for a moment. So…

…do you know who Barnardo’s are? If not, the simple explanation is that Barnardo’s is a children’s charity. I have once even stood on a high street to collect money for them. Yup.

The image below is their latest campaign (suitably timed for the UK general election – which is in fewer than 100 days now, I believe), of which I made a blurry caption on a bus.

All for one and one for all?

The gist is that the current government awards more from the pot of social welfare to a mum who earns £70k a year than a mum who earns £9k a year, given that the other circumstances in the lives of these respective mothers are equal, i.e. same number of children (of the same age), same civil status, same hours worked, etc. Barnardo’s thinks that this is unfair, and wants you to text their number if you also think it is unfair. However, Barnardo’s have not stated on this billboard why they think is unfair, or how they believe that the welfare money should be spent.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, it would be great if everybody pulled their load, and received the proportionally same benefits (not necessarily all in cash) from the state, although I do not think I will see that happen in my lifetime. That said, I am uncertain that this us-versus-them, or rather we and the “other” – because depending on how you identify yourself, there will always be somebody who is different and therefore “other” to you – method is the way to make people donate to your charity. By alienating one portion of the public you are implying that they are doing something wrong, which is not necessarily the case. Frankly, everybody seems to be having a tough time right now.

But! Do you know what a really, truly tough time of life is? The time you have to wait between removing a cake from the oven, and eating it.

Academented Christmas, day the twenty-fourth/fifth – Merry Blogmas

There appears to be mixed opinions on whether the Eve or the Day is the most (over? Never!-)hyped day of Christmas, so I am posting somewhere in the middle.

There is little left to say but Merry Christmas!/Happy End-of-Hanukkah!/ Happy Wednesday/Thursday! I hope everybody has been swanning about in their place of choice in their outfit of choice, having a generally good time. I hope you have all got your out-of-office messages on your emails, and failing that, are ignoring any “pling” that results from your work emails on your phones. We have all ignored an (several) email(s) sometimes, and if you say you have never done that, you should be ashamed of yourself, because lying is bad form.

I wish you relaxation and good health until the new year, but who knows what will happen next? In the meantime, a little present for your trouble in following this naff calendar, although of course I hope you have been amused, and enjoyed your time here.


Academented Christmas, day the twenty-third – ironic neighbours

I never really think of myself as a historian. Occasionally I do something stereotypically historian (such as ooh and aah over war documentaries, or obsess over getting the year – or day – right on for a particular historical event at a pub quiz), but most of the time I think my not-so-historian-ness is highlighted in an office full of historians. However, this does not mean that I cannot occasionally pretend that I favour the old far over the new.*

“Old motor vehicle trade show.”

This picture was snapped on a sweltering day (little did I know at that moment that I was going to have my second bout of sun stroke of the summer later that day) when I headed away from “my” museum in Hangzhou, to Nantong, in order to carry out my pilgrimage to the home of Zhang Jian, founder of the first domestically funded museum in China.

This building was potentially too close (for comfort) to the really quite shiny coach station. Won’t anybody think of the cars?!

*Even this is very stereotypical in itself. Historians, I love you all.