Category Archives: Journal

Gender and Sex Drive

Gender and Sex Drive ray-blanchard-300x300
Dr Ray Blanchard

Ray Blanchard’s taxonomy of transsexualism is sometimes criticised for the emphasis it places on the human sex drive as a motivating force behind gender, especially gender transition. This criticism comes mainly from one section of the transsexual and transgender community, a section Blanchard defined as ‘autogynephilic’.

So I want to look a bit harder at gender and sex and the relationship between the two.

In the West, 200 years ago, it would have been easy for an outside observer to assume that gender had a huge influence on all areas of life, from child-raising through the kind of jobs people did, to social roles.

In the 21st century, however, things look very differently. Gender, we find, is not a determinant of what we do in our lives. People of feminine gender are engineers, lawyers, astronauts, doctors, chemists, politicians, teachers, welders, plumbers…and people of masculine gender, equally, are stay-home dads who take care of the house and children, nurses, kindergarten teachers, shop assistants and so on. Continue reading Gender and Sex Drive

Ice (Part One)

Ice (Part One) ice-world
The Ice World Ilos

I was right in the middle of my steering watch

when suddenly a blinding streak of white light whizzed at us from over to the right. I knew what it was, of course, stinger missile, aimed straight at us. Eosha had her eyes glued to the Infra-scopes, as usual, and she saw it coming before I did. I pulled the control stick and turned the anti-grav tank towards the missile, to reduce the target area, and stood on the mag-brakes, bringing the tank to a halt under the shelter of a small hillock of ice and setting it down. Continue reading Ice (Part One)

DIY Fiddle Repair and Maintenance

DIY Fiddle Repair and Maintenance afiddle1-165x300
DIY fiddle repair

After a little while in the violin world, I know you will have seen this reaction: you have just gone into your friendly music shop and said, “My fiddle needs a new bridge. Can you sell me one?” You are shocked as the light outside dims, the interior of the shop becomes gloomy and the owner, in a voice that would render the bravest heart weak, intones, “You must never, ever, attempt to do any work on your violin yourself. Oh no. That is for the luthier to do. Now get ye hence and practise your scales.” And he refuses to sell you a bridge blank and you scuttle off with your tail between your legs thinking that everyone else in the shop must now consider you an uneducated oaf.

 Well, you’re not. Continue reading DIY Fiddle Repair and Maintenance

Focus and Depth of Field

Focus and Depth of Field focus-taxis-300x185
This picture, taken at Edinburgh’s Waverley train station, shows the use of selective focus to isolate the subject. Pic: Rod Fleming

Focus and depth of field are related, and the advancing photographer should understand the relationship between them.

If you are used to using a digital compact, then focus may be something you take for granted. Things just are in focus. But if you are thinking of buying a DSLR or a film camera, then focus becomes much more important. In fact it is one of the primary creative tools the photographer has.

Lenses resolve the light emitted from objects in the world into an image that we can use. Sometimes, as in a telescope, this is for direct observation, and the focus is inside the eye; in photography, resolution is always on a plane behind the lens.

Let’s begin with a point of light in front of the lens. Now strictly, a point has no diameter, so think of something like a star which appears to be a point (but isn’t really.) If we want to make a photograph of this we must create a sharp image of it, and to do this we first need a lens. The lens will take the very narrow cone of light it receives from the star and reverse this into a steeper cone behind it. The plane on which this sharp image is created is called the focal plane of the lens. The distance between this and the lens is called the focal length of the lens. Continue reading Focus and Depth of Field

End of The Line

The ticking clock of the modern world has finally blown the whistle on Scotland’s only cycling railway signallers, as part of a package of improvements to be made to the Inverness to Aberdeen railway line. Railtrack Scotland zone director Janette Anderson announced the proposed changes in a speech on Scottish rail infrastructure at Robert Gordon’s University in Aberdeen on Friday. The £2m investment, which is expected to reduce journey times by 10 ½ minutes by the year 2000, will involve the installation of new signalling on the line, which will put an end to the “Nairn Bike”, and the sight of signallers cycling from one end of Nairn station to the other to operate the points. Continue reading End of The Line

The Horror of the Blocked-Up Window

The Horror of the Blocked-Up Window blocked-up-iwndow-213x300
The Blocked-up Window

I don’t know why it is that I have accumulated such a collection of ─ well, I suppose you might say ghost stories, though I tend to think of them in less definite terms myself. The fact is that I have never seen a ghost with my two eyes, and in fact I long ago gave up any hope of doing so. I must not be one of those gifted with the sight, as it were. However that may be, though, I seem to be a magnet for stories of the weird and the macabre, as if they seek me out─ and in the strangest of places.

The most recent addition to my collection was found in just such a casual way as all the others. I had been on holiday in France, when I was suddenly called back because of an illness─a very severe one─in the family. It happened that the nearest airport from which I could get a flight home was Lyon, so I made my reservation and got myself there as soon as I possibly could. Continue reading The Horror of the Blocked-Up Window