The Mayan Apocalypse fails to appear, so here’s a non-post-apocalyptic linkdump

So the Mayan apocalypse failed to appear today to very little surprise. Though since the Mayas did not specify the exact time the world is supposed to end, we may not be out of the woods yet.

However, today school finished for 2012, plus we got a bit of snow in the afternoon. It’s not a snowpocalypse, though. Nor does it herald a white Christmas, because the snow is predicted to melt on Sunday.

Still, since it seems that the world will hang around for a little bit longer, here is a bunch of links:

In the past couple of days, I noticed a bunch of referrals from TV Tropes, which baffled me, because I have never linked to TV Tropes as far as I know. A bit of investigating revealed that this post of mine about the dominance of US storytelling modes sparked a discussion at the TV Tropes forums.

Over at the ABC Buhlert blog, I discuss the rise of the Post-Panamax vessel.

Book Matchers is a great new site which allows users to enter a set of criteria and get recommendations for books which match those criteria. All Pegasus Pulp e-books have already been entered into the database.

At National Public Radio, Bobbi Dumas writes an eloquent defense of romance novels – not that they should need one. The comments are overwhelmingly positive, too – only one “But it’s all porn and porn is evil” comment among more than seventy.

At Publishing Perspectives, Suzy Spenser wonders whether the erotica trend has flamed out. We can but hope, though there has been erotica before Fifty Shades of Grey and there will continue to be erotica after the Fifty Shades of Grey induced boom has ended.

Talking of Fifty Shades of Grey, the Daily Telegraph has one of the rare interviews with Fifty Shades author E.L. James. Among other things, she complains about the term “mommy porn”, because it’s misogynist, and acknowledges Twilight as a “huge inspiration”.

At the Guardian, a writer called Simon Dunn complains about vague and handwaving science in science fiction, because apparently vague and handwaving science in SF will make alternative medicine seem more credible. Methinks Mr Dunn forgot that “science fiction” is made up not just of science but of fiction as well. And that there is a world of difference between using handwaving science to make an FTL drive work in a book of fiction and using handwaving science to claim that your magical magnet bracelet heals cancer in reality. Besides, nothing crippled my SF writing more than the feeling that everything had to be one hundred percent accurate. Once I abandoned that attitude in favour of trying to find plausible ways to make even the implausible work, I could suddenly write SF again.

Never mind that I will never understand the extreme position against all forms of alternative medicine that is so prevalent in the UK and parts of the US. Yes, there is alternative medicine that is flat out dangerous, but here in Germany attitudes are much more relaxed with doctors occasionally prescribing homeopathic medicine and acupuncture and major hospitals doing research on Chinese medicine. And considering those radical skeptics freak out at homeopathy or chiropractics, I wonder what they would make of the practice of healing warts and shingles by mumbling incantations (i.e. basically witchcraft) that is still quite common in Germany. I’ve never experienced this myself, but I know several people whose warts and shingles were cured by wart mumblers and even doctors who send patients there. I suspect it works because of suggestion and the placebo effect.

What is the grammatical gender of God? This sounds like one of those really obscure theological debates of interest to no one but theologians, but is actually a headline making subject in Germany these days (You see, this is what happens to the news when the world fails to end). So what happened? Germany’s secretary of the family Kristina Schröder, a lady not normally known for progressive attitudes, gave an interview to the newspaper Die Zeit in which she discusses parenting (Schröder has an 18 months old daughter), why she thinks Grimm’s fairy tales are unsuitable for kids (Boo, hiss!), why she replaces the word “negro” in older children’s books with something less offensive (I don’t think anybody can argue with that) and why she thinks that it would be better to say “das liebe Gott” (dear God with a gender neutral article) rather than “der liebe Gott” (dear God with the traditional masculine article). One would think this fluffy pre-Christmas interview was hardly controversial, but today was a slow newsday (because there was no apocalypse) and so Schröder’s suggestion to neuter God caught lots of flak in her own party, the Christian conservative CDU/CSU, because it’s apparently “overly intellectual twaddle” (this must be the first time anybody has called Ms. Schröder intellectual) and political correctness gone wild. The Vatican, never to be left out of any theological debate, accused Ms. Schröder of “religious illiteracy”. Religious illiteracy is currently a popular accusation wielded by the religious against those who don’t care about religion and don’t want it to play a prominent part in society. The humanist society should print t-shirts. “Religiously illiterate and proud of it”.

Now the grammatical gender of the German word “Gott”, i.e. “god”, is clearly masculine. As for the gender of the entity that is the Christian God, we cannot know unless He/She/It deigns to appear. Which won’t happen because the apocalypse has been postponed. There is an English language summary of the “grammatical gender of God” debate here.

Socialdemocratic politician Peter Struck, who was the German secretary of defense in Gerhard Schröder’s cabinet, died Wednesday aged 69 of a heart attack. Apparently he had heart problems for years. Struck was one of the most likable politicians in Gerhard Schröder’s cabinet, which was largely made up of chauvinistic men. Though he also uttered the (very stupid) line “The freedom of German is also being defended in Afghanistan.”

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