Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

Urgent: Deputy Editor Liz needs a job ASAP

Okay guys, our deputy editor Liz Lutgendorff has lost her job and needs a new one. I (James) live with her and as a result if she doesn’t secure a new job soon we may lose our house. So if anyone reading can please offer Liz any help, it would be greatly appreciated. If you can help her please get in touch – she is based in London. Here’s some details:

Skills

Project management: Planning, research, logistics, quality control, Prince2 Foundation attained

Research: Participation in numerous research projects, primary and secondary source expert, archive research, survey research, business research

IT skills: MS Office (Excel, Visio, Word, Outlook, Power Point), solid understanding of SQL queries, web-admin, community based forums, Salesforce (CRM), wikis, HTML, Photoshop, Google Apps

Editing/Proofreading: Copy editing, proof reading, marketing, expert in alternative format processes, audio/video editing

Event planning: Logistics, organization, speaker sourcing, speaker liaison

Communication: Social Media: (Twitter, Facebook, etc), blogging platforms, online forums, international meeting set up, phone/video conferencing set up, email, telephone, face-to-face meetings, CEO level contact with multinational corporations, interviews

Education

Birkbeck College, University of London (2010)

  • Masters Degree – History

University of Western Ontario (2004)

  • BA (hons) – History

Qualifications

Prince2 – Project Management 2011

  • Passed with certificate

ISO 9001 – Internal Auditor 2010 (updated)

  • Passed with certificate

Contact Details

  • E-Mail: liz@poddelusion.co.uk
  • Twitter: @sillypunk

Boring Conference 2011

A few weeks ago, your intrepid editor and myself traipsed over to Hackney to take in the Boring Conference. We arrived slightly late, as we were interviewing Marcus Chown that morning but still managed to hear about Budgens, About a Boy, bar codes and the sound of vending machines. All this was topped off by Adam Curtis talking about the bits of video between videos on the BBC and wondering if we are experiencing cultural stagnation akin to the end of Soviet Russia.

The Boring conference wonderfully pokes fun about the attendees and speakers own geekiness and love of the obscure, pedantic and in any other hands, the boring. It was delightful and each talk was a surprise either through making the otherwise beige content interesting or often very funny, though some elements didn’t work for me: the possible post-modern jokes in between speakers (but maybe I’m missing something because of my innate foreignness); the venue’s acoustics from way in the back; and the venue was rather cold after the afternoon sun started to dip.

Those, though, are ephemeral notes compared to the content of the conference which was excellent. Matt Parker was on top form (as usual) giving an extended talk about bar codes. If you’ve seen him at the Uncaged Monkey tour or other events, you may have seen it part of the act before. However, he expanded on the original theme and ventured into the wonderful world of QR codes which was amazing for its capacity for redundancy. A highlight for me was the improbable yet prodigious amounts photographs from location research for Stanley Kubrick, the talk given by Jon Ronson. As James said at the time, it was like the equivalent of Google Streetview from when Eyes Wide Shut was filmed. It was absolutely ridiculous. I found myself oddly fascinated by the vending machine noise talk given by Felicity Ford, recent PhD graduate from Oxford-Brookes.

The finale with Adam Curtis turned the very idea of the Boring Conference on its head, wondering if the concept of the Boring Conference fit it with the idea of cultural stagnation. Perhaps not the best way to end the night, giving a overall critique of our inability to escape from our current predicament, but definitely food for thought.

Who knows if there will be a Boring Conference 2012, perhaps the cultural malaise and stagnation will have taken us through boring and into ennui. I’m not sure what kind of conference that would make. But congratulations to James Ward for making the Boring Conference 2011 thoroughly enjoyable.

Polygamy Update: British Columbia rules on test case.

At Pod Delusion live at the inaugural QED conference, I did a rather different report (for me, anyway) on the then current case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia about decriminalizing polygamy.

There are a few things you may need to know before I continue.  One, Canada has legalized gay marriage (indeed was the fourth country in the world to do so and the first in the Americas); and two Canada has a very large Mormon community in Bountiful, British Columbia who practice polygamy, though they haven’t been successfully charged with polygamy over their many years in British Columbia.   Indeed, the test case was launched because of failed prosecutions under the current law for those in the Bountiful community.

Why are the two related?  One of the criticisms of allowing gay marriage in Canada was that it would lead to the decriminalization, or more generally, acceptance of alternative forms of marriage – the slippery slope argument as it were.  However, this is not what has happened.  Instead the BC Supreme Court has ruled that it basically comes down to harm as BC Chief Justice Robert Bauman states in the ruling: “More specifically, Parliament’s reasoned apprehension of harm arising out of the practice of polygamy. This includes harm to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage.”  There are also many other interesting aspects to the ruling, so I encourage you to have a read to at least the ruling (possibly not all 335 pages of it though!)

There is a polyamory association in Canada (not affiliated with the community at Bountiful) that was also giving evidenced at the trial – but I’d argue that the issue of not getting married is probably not as necessary for those in the polyamory community as it is with the Mormon community and so the former are not affected as much by the ruling.   Indeed, the spokersperson for the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association stated “the formality of marriage is really not a big issue in the polyamorous community”.    Though, if there is a ceremony it still may criminalize these unions – an area which the CPAA would like clarified.   It would be nice to see the liberalization of laws that protect binaries in marriage – which the ruling more or less explicitly states – but at this point, I agree with the judge in that it would cause harm.  He specifically states that minors who find themselves in polygamous unions should not be charged.  This is telling in itself and a good reason why the current law should have been upheld – the issue of child brides in Mormon communities.  But it wasn’t just about marriage, there was a lot in Bountiful that also made polygamy a harmful practice; one being the expulsion of young men as there weren’t enough women to go around to furnish them all with multiple brides.  There is now the question of what happens to the excess brides of such illegal unions (many who might be illegal immigrants in part of a wife trade between Mormon communities in the US).

While the ruling obvious impedes some freedom of religion (in this case that of the Mormons) it is allowed to discriminate based on the first clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

“1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Reasonable limits has been used before to curtail the Freedom of Speech of people who use it to promote hate as well.  However, I don’t know if this was the first time it was specifically used to limit Freedom of Religion.  It was the reason I speculated that the freedom of the Mormon’s to this specific aspect of their religion might be overruled in my original report.

I realize that such a term may lead to a conservative interpretation of what may be considered reasonable but I think thus far it has been largely a good force in Canadian law.  I imagine there is someone who’d make the argument for the opposite.  Indeed, this case could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada – so the saga may not end.  It would be helpful for the non-Mormon poly community to have some safety in that their non-solemnized unions are perfectly safe and free from criminal prosecution.  I would support polyamorous unions per se, but as the largest vocal representatives of the practice so far has a proven record for:  trafficking minors for the express purpose of marriage; lack of good education; a huge lack of women’s rights; problems with physical and sexual abuse of women and minors; and the tendency to ostracize their younger, male members – which tends to weigh heavily against the poly community in Canada.  It’s a hard balance, I grant you that:  the limiting of damaging religious practices with the liberal, egalitarian ones. There is also the danger of Canada becoming a haven for those extreme religious groups that still practice polygamy.

It will be interesting to see if this goes to the highest court in the land and if there can be some sort of nuance brought to the existing laws or a continuation of what has been in place for the last 100 years or so.  It was certainly an interesting year to watch law proceedings in Canada!

Blog post by Liz Lutgendorff

Original report from Pod Delusion Live at QED

Turning the tables on the Guardian’s Science Weekly

Tomorrow, if all goes to plan, I’m going to be accompanying Graham Steel to meet the guys behind the Guardian’s (excellent) Science Weekly podcast. Graham has organised a bit of a podcast recording to essentially ‘turn the tables’ on them. So we’re wondering in advance – does anyone have anything they’d like answered? Or any issues in science and journalism that you’d like to hear their take on?

I think Graham’s plan is to touch on issues as diverse as churnalism, the science blogging landscape, social media and linking to sources – can you think of anything we can add to this?

Let us know in the comments below!

The Pod Delusion on BBC Click

A few weeks ago Liz and I were filmed for the BBC’s technology programme ‘Click’, which is shown on the BBC News channel domestically, and BBC World around the world. The feature, by LJ Rich, was on the topic of whether the corporate podcasters are killing the bedroom podcasters. I gave my two cents, and somehow LJ managed to make me seem vaguely coherent. Watch it below:

Partnering with the British Humanist Association

Exciting news everyone – we’re now officially partners with the British Humanist Association. We’ve been friends with them for a while – they like what we do, and we like what they do, so we decided to formalise our relationship.

Though this is exciting – I know you lot are a skeptical bunch, so I want to clarify what this actually means.

We retain complete editorial independence – the decisions on content, what we talk about, who we talk to and so on are not going to be run past the BHA first for their stamp of approval. Similarly, we will not be changing our content in the slightest. Having our lead story as “God still doesn’t exist” every week would get a bit tedious – the contents of the podcast is not going to change. We’re still going to have provocative reports slagging off Remembrance Day and interviews with interesting people regardless of how they define their personal philosophy. What’s unified the podcast since day one has been a set of values, rather than a set of topics – those of rationalism, critical thinking, and of course, things that are just plain interesting.

Similarly, we’re still going to talk to other organisations – be they the National Secular Society, the JREF, the Church of England or even a certain litigious cult, should they want to speak to us. Just because we’re partnered with the BHA doesn’t mean that after every report we’re going to say “And now here’s what the BHA thinks, and what you should think too”. We’ll obviously be approaching the BHA should they have relevant comments to make – like we’ve been doing anyway.

Also, in case it’s not obvious – the BHA do not ‘own’ the Pod Delusion. I do, still. It’s not going to be “The BHA’s Pod Delusion” or “The Pod Delusion, brought to you by the BHA”. We’re still going to be “The Pod Delusion” and I’ll still be as foul-mouthed as usual.

If the above wasn’t the case then we wouldn’t have agreed to partner – compromising editorial independence and the ability for me to use the podcast for my own (possibly evil) agenda would have been a deal breaker for me.

So why have we done this? I’ll tell you now – no money has changed hands. What we’ve essentially got is a cross-promotional quid-pro-quo. We’re going to put a couple of links on the Pod Delusion site, and in return the BHA are going to put a page about us on their website – as well as put a bit in their weekly newsletter to their members about us. We figure that humanists are a fairly receptive audience to what we have to say – so hopefully this should make the show even more popular, and allow us to grow even more!

Of course, if you have any questions, comments, or want to call us sell outs, put them in the comments below and I’ll attempt to address them.

James

Pod Delusion Live Aftermath

So last night we did something special – to celebrate the show’s first birthday, we did our first ever live podcast recording, at Skeptics in the Pub in Camden, London. I think it’s safe to say that it went very well indeed – and you’ll be able to hear it for yourself in the podcast on Friday as usual. In the meantime, here’s some pictures and videos to get you in the mood, after the break:

Continue reading Pod Delusion Live Aftermath

Pod Delusion LIVE recording announced – come and watch!

As you might have heard on our latest episode, for the Pod Delusion’s first birthday we’re doing a live recording of the show at London Skeptics in the Pub. Sid, the SITP organiser has kindly offered us a slot in September so do come along and watch and possibly take part. Unlike the regular show, which is put together in my bedroom, we’ll be doing it all live in front of an audience. We don’t know what the exact line-up will be yet, but it’ll follow the usual format – so expect lots of short and interesting chatter, and we’ll probably open bits and pieces up for Q&As. And besides – it’s the show’s birthday, so come and celebrate with us!

When? 14th September 2010 at 7pm

Where? The Monarch Pub, Camden

If you’re coming, let us know on Facebook!

BHA Choir Live in Kensington Gardens

Yesterday I went to see the BHA Choir perform at the Central London Humanists Group annual picnic, in Kensington Gardens. It was a nice day for it, and I recorded the BHA Choir’s performance. Sound quality isn’t perfect, but I reckon it’s pretty good for just putting a mic on the grass. I’m hoping to include the Choir on the Pod Delusion at some point, but we need to worry about rights issues and stuff first. Here’s the recordings:

The choir features the Pod Delusion’s very own Liz Lutgendorff, so do see if you can spot her voice in there.