Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Purposeful reading

Towards the end of last year I was asked to teach a course on Northern Government to management studies students. I was excited to be given the opportunity to try my hand at this having been a policy analyst for many years for both government and Inuit organizations (focusing on Inuit rights, education and language files), and that I thought I had something to contribute to this discourse.

I wanted to present the material from a historical perspective with the end view that the legal system of Canada is often the only recourse that Inuit have for 'political development'. Where does the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement come from? Why, when Inuit have had pan-Arctic presence as first occupiers, did it turn out that we ended up with four distinct Inuit regions in Canada? How long has the discourse on aboriginal rights been going on? (turns out it's been going since the 1700s with the Royal Proclamation 1763 of King George III)

The history of Canada is the history of the political and legal discourse on aboriginal rights.

But problems soon arose. There was a wall apathy and resentment I had never seen the likes of in my short career as a teacher of adults. I had always suspected that I was a capable teacher having had only pleasant experiences on the main. Even teaching Inuktitut to students with little or no grasp of the language gave me grounds to be optimistic.

But at the college level there is a certain amount of expectation that if the students do not immediately take on the subject discernible progress will happen shortly. Little did I know that I was in for a rough ride. Turns out that even if the majority of the students are willing to give me a chance it takes only one or two to dash any hopes of amicable relations. It eats away at the credibility of the teacher, especially for those who are socially awkward.

Despite all appearances, I didn't take any of the resistance personally. I just had to find a way to reach them. But it turns out that I was up against whole careers in elementary and secondary schooling that, to be brutally honest, cheat the students of any real meaningful engagement right from the start.

I ended up in arguments that neither side could really understand for, what to me were, kind of stupid reasons. It started out with me marking papers that barely made the cut. I gave one student a 19/20 for her two page essay but she was very unhappy about it. She demanded that I explain why I wouldn't give her the whole marks. I did try to explain to her that the logical transitions between ideas and paragraphs were kind of wonky as was her use of unconventional English (well, I didn't use such terms to point that out).

After our arbitrated exchange with the senior instructor, I was wracking my brain as to why I couldn't seem to convince her that my marking scheme was solid. In the final analysis, I decided it had something to do with what I call 'purposeful reading'.

Purposeful reading, I would define, is not just about picking up a strand from at least more than one source and following it where it leads but that it's also being able to be thoughtful in presenting one's begotten insights even if they turn out not to be original rather than parroting (plagiarizing) whole paragraphs of other people's works without giving credit to the original source.

Purposeful reading also allows one to context defined terms and concepts, and being able to roughly follow the logic of arguments. It is about being able to generate general statements from particular sets of facts.

This is where many students fail.

It is not that they're stupid. I highly doubt that there is such a thing as 'stupid' people—we all do stupid things sometimes but that doesn't make us stupid. The problem with many Inuit students is that they've just never been taught to think in a way that meets basic required academic standards. It is a failure of the system rather than a personal failing.

The notion of a liberal arts education requires something a whole lot more than just what the system gives or can afford to give. It requires a long-term commitment from both the student and the teacher. Since most of the teachers in Nunavut are transient government employees the commitment to continuity is key to education.

It is only right and just that we, as teachers, try and ensure this notion of continuity knowing that we're just one sign post along the highway of personal development of the students.

I've always been committed to following strands of thought that sometimes go back thousands of years. I'm no mathematician but I appreciate maths because I was trained by linguistics to appreciate formal logic and its constraint rules that are based on verifiable distinctive features of a discourse.

I've never entered a formal discourse fully-formed and fully-equipped to comprehend the subject; where I normally start from is the set of defined terms and how and why they interact with each other in the internal logic system of the discourse. I build upon what I can comprehend, what I can translate into and draw from other areas of my life experiences to enrich my learning. Most times I am drastically wrong in my thinking but my errors in replicating major arguments are the most instructive of what the discourse requires of me.

I know that I'm not unique in this respect: all viable educational experiences have this feature. Inuit and aboriginal peoples in general have not really been given this opportunity for personal growth.


Thursday, 26 January 2017

POTUS 45th's 'alternative facts' (alternate reality?)

I found this article from The New York Times interesting and wanted to share it. I absolutely love it. It reveals a profound insight (if not disclosing of how to deal with the 45th, himself) into what 'alternative facts' actually mean.

(from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/us/politics/trump-bernhard-langer-voting-fraud.html?_r=0)

Bernhard Langer during the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., in April. Despite the president’s claim otherwise, “he is not a friend of President Trump’s,” his daughter said. Credit Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
WASHINGTON — On Monday, President Trump gathered House and Senate leaders in the State Dining Room for a get-to-know-you reception, served them tiny meatballs and pigs-in-a-blanket, and quickly launched into a story meant to illustrate what he believes to be rampant, unchecked voter fraud.

Mr. Trump kicked off the meeting, participants said, by retelling his debunked claim that he would have won the popular vote if not for the three million to five million ballots cast by “illegals.” He followed it up with a Twitter post early Wednesday calling for a major investigation into voter fraud.

When one of the Democrats protested, Mr. Trump said he was told a story by “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer,” whom he described as a friend, according to three staff members who were in the room for the meeting.

In the emerging Trump era, the story was a memorable example, for the legislators and the country, of how an off-the-cuff yarn — unverifiable and of confusing origin — became a prime policy mover for a president whose fact-gathering owes more to the oral tradition than the written word.

The witnesses described the story this way: Mr. Langer, a 59-year-old native of Bavaria, Germany — a winner of the Masters twice and of more than 100 events on major professional golf tours around the world — was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day, the president explained, when an official informed Mr. Langer he would not be able to vote.

Ahead of and behind Mr. Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Mr. Trump said, according to the staff members — but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots. The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from.

Mr. Langer, whom he described as a supporter, left feeling frustrated, according to a version of events later contradicted by a White House official.

The anecdote, the aides said, was greeted with silence, and Mr. Trump was prodded to change the subject by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Just one problem: Mr. Langer, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., is a German citizen with permanent residence status in the United States who is, by law, barred from voting, according to Mr. Langer’s daughter Christina.

“He is a citizen of Germany,” she said, when reached on her father’s cellphone. “He is not a friend of President Trump’s, and I don’t know why he would talk about him.”

She said her father was “very busy” and would not be able to answer any questions.

But a senior White House staff member, who was not at the Monday reception but has heard Mr. Trump tell the story, said Mr. Langer saw Mr. Trump in Florida during the Thanksgiving break and told him the story of a friend of Mr. Langer’s who had been blocked from voting.

Either way, the tale left its mark on Mr. Trump, who is known to act on anecdote, and on Wednesday redoubled his efforts to build a border wall and crack down on immigrants crossing the border from Mexico.
The story, the aide added, had made a big impression on Mr. Trump. (end of article)

-This story about Trump being confronted by his own lies really heartens me. The silent but ever-present wall of truth and facts need only stare at him blankly to defang him.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Drugs...

...tricked ya.

This is actually a title to a song, thusly (The Drugs):

Cause you're hotter than the sun
And you're better than the drugs
I used to love

I would lose my decadence
I'd do away with all the dirtiness
For your love
I would become innocent
I'd listen to everything mamma said
For your love

Cause you're hotter than the sun
And you're better than the drugs
I used to love
And you're deadly like a gun
Yeah you're deadly like the drugs
Oh the drugs, I used to love

Send me down an angel
And let it pull me up from my own hell
We could float around this place
We'd be above all of the pain in ecstasy

Cause you're hotter than the sun
And you're better than the drugs
I used to love
And you're deadly like a gun
Yeah you're deadly like the drugs
Oh the drugs, I used to love

Give my best to the mess
I've had my fill of it
And give my worst to the curse
I've had my fill of it
And give my blessing to depression
I've had enough of it
Had eh- had eh-
Had enough of it

Cause you're hotter than the sun
And you're better than the drugs
I used to love
And you're deadly like a gun
Yeah you're deadly like the drugs
Oh the drugs, oh the drugs
I used to love

-Mother Mother, 2016

Friday, 13 January 2017

Mental Health

I've had my own challenges and struggles with what could be called "mental health" issues. I've been, in fact, suicidal at various points in my life. Like most Nunavunmiut, I've seen friends and family and fellow Inuit from different communities end their own lives. Oh, such loss, such suffering. Most of them young—somebody's child, somebody's dad, somebody's mom...

I don't think we'll ever figure out suicide. The solutions are not in the terminus of a particular life, but in addressing that which 'caused' that person to do such a thingthe quality of life to which a child is born, the types of experiences they go through in the developmental years, whether the intellectual and moral character and expectations of that person have been cultivated sufficiently by the education they've received (literally, their existential reality from there on out), whether they've been equipped sufficiently to 'make a living', etc. etc.

I've ended up homeless and jobless numerous times in my life, and we all know that it is no way to live. Granted, many of these numerous times have largely been my fault. But the point is that we all go through hard times. Think about it.

What makes some people just give up in the hopeless darkness while others seem to be able to cope and live to see a new day?

In terms of quality of life, most Inuit households would be considered below or barely above the official poverty line. I, myself, grew up in a relatively poor and overcrowded household—many of my generation did. Yet many do not commit suicide.

In terms of types of experiences in my formative years, horrible a lot of it. It wasn't just me. Many went through hell.

My father was a religious man. He tried, of course, to instill Christian values in all of us, his children. I, of course, rebelled against that as a youth but have slowly come to understand him and his faith. I haven't attended church in years. But I'm a believer in the Christ's Gospel. However, I've had to grow old to realize this.

I like to think that I'm a quick study and sufficiently equipped to 'make a living' in most situations.

The point is that if some of our basic needs to become a relatively self-reliant individual are met (even if later than expected), things tend to look and feel a bit more tolerable, I think.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

solved two more puzzles

and here they are:

everything is solid throughout,But I'm no cheater: and i've been solving them all without any help (though a couple of days it takes me to configure them 'cuz I needs a few experiments to figure them out)

for my attauq

SRV: life without you

Oo oo now baby... tell me how have you been
We all have missed you... and the way you grin
The day is necessary... every now and then
For souls to move on... givin' life back again, and again
Fly on fly on....fly on my friend
Go on... live again... love again
Day after day... night after night
Sittin' here singin' every minute... as the years go passing by... by, by, by
Long look in the mirror... we've come face to face
Wishin' all the love we took for granted... love we have today
Life without you... all the love you passed my way
The angels have waited for so long... now they have their way
Take your place...

bigly...not love but obsession

Hatred, bigotry and extremism are not love, anymore than narcissism is not love but something more primeval—ego. It is nothing less than "a reward" for faithfulness to a cause (cause to oneself, no less).

DJT has tapped into a whole world that he has not known but anything else—self-regard and the aftermath of that self-regard. Only now he is the victim of that obsession (apparent sleepless nights trying to justify himself for his actions and loyalties, and tapping away his little fingers all hours of the night). He walks a razor-thin line but with the whole world on his shoulders.

This is a whole different level than what he is used to. He admires Putin. But he is but an admirer and not the admiree. By all accounts Putin is rather dismissive of the guy.

He cannot, and never can, perceive this. This is the nature of power-obsession: to see reality as nothing more that what is in his control and purview: his whim, and, ironically, that which shrinks smaller and smaller as in direct proportion squared to the distance of his point of origin every time he opens his mouth. He does not understand that a single person cannot influence neither intimidate a whole culture without buy-in from others whom he has alienated at key points of the power structure he has achieved; he will lose...and lose mightily. He is a complainer and a dead weight besides.

I knew a guy. I fought tooth and nail against him on his policy positions. I promised that he would lose to history. It was not my ego that informed me but history. He is now a professor of a not-ivy-league university without having any notion of it but intuition (an inarticulate existential dissatisfaction), and still acts as if. In his mind he is still all that. He is at the dusk of his life—an old man, and dishearteningly angry all the time. He has a mother and father and followers to account for.

Who has time for that?

 No satisfaction there, I can tell you that. He had his 9mm pistol and implied bomb threats to the rest of us in the office (he's an "American") but he wouldn't leave the world without assurance of his "proper" legacy. His ego won't allow him to be a common mass murderer:

mass extinction has a way of influencing ego as nothing else would. One needs survivors to celebrate one's achievements. Who else would celebrate his greatness otherwise? In death there are no winners and losers, only ashes. And, nothing more after that. Death makes us all equal. Breathless, mindless and without documentation. We know not now whom was the greatest amongst the dinosaurs but size. Humans are but a middling in the scale of evolutionary scale. Elephants and whales will be greater than us, hands down.


Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

I was recently sent an old issue of Scientific American (August 2013) where it features a piece on quantum physics called, What is Real?, by Meinard Kuhlmann (p. 41).

Though much has been said and written about the mysterious—even mystical—nature of quantum mechanics, over the many years of being a sideline watcher my faith in the credibility of the theory has only grown. The theory says that a particle is a wave and a wave a particle: Ok. I accept that. Perhaps it has to do with something deeper than what the human mind can grasp; perhaps this picture of the dual nature of particle-wave is only a mathematical artifact; etc. etc.

The fact remains: the theory works! even if we cannot now fully understand it. Indeed, it would still work without us ever 'understanding' it. It has worked so far because the 'mechanics' of it have largely been worked out if not the metaphysics of it.

In the self-same issue of Scientific American there is a letter to the editor talking about neutrino mass by Carl Gruel wondering "[i]f the current mass measurements of these basic particles [ie, electrons, neutrons and protons] are not sufficiently accurate, can a more accurate measurement be made with today's equipment?"

One of the co-authors of "Ghostly Beacons of New Physics" replies "...According to special relativity [...] energy and mass are equivalent. So the mass of the emitted antineutrino is not simply given by the neutron mass minus the proton and the electron mass; in addition, the kinetic energies of the emitted antineutrino and the electron enter the equation. What the experimentalists do, then, is look at the maximum possible energy of the electron and check whether it can carry away all the missing energy in the budget above. If it doesn't, the difference corresponds to the neutrino mass."

In talking about the paradoxes of particle physics Kuhlmann points out (p. 43) "what we see/calculate/do" with tracks in a bubble chamber is to infer that particles are flying through the chamber and leaving tracks. Then, he points out why this inference is wrong because "[a]ll we really see is a succession of bubbles..." and that it would be a mistake to link them together.

Now, a bubble chamber looks like this:

Each track, Kuhlmann says, comprises of a succession of tiny bubbles (the whorls and curves indicate only the 'particle's' charge, spin and energy resulting from a collision).

Kuhlmann's thesis is that if neither particles and fields are fundamental, then what is? He contends that "[a]s infants, when we see and experience a ball for the first time, we do not actually perceive a ball, strictly speaking. What we perceive is a round shape, some shade of red, with a certain elastic touch. Only later we do associate this bundle of perceptions with a coherent object of a certain kind—namely, a ball.
Applying this idea to quantum field theory, what we call an electron is in fact a bundle of various properties or tropes: three fixed, essential properties (mass, charge and spin), as well as numerous changing, nonessential properties (position and velocity).
A particle is what you get when those properties bundle themselves together in a certain way."

The philosopher in me is greatly assuaged by this elegant logic, but I'm still struggling to see why it would be "a mistake to link [...] together" the succession of bubbles that result in a bubble chamber. Perhaps we would be mistaken to link together a succession in a single track but as a system perhaps it is possible to correlate a bubble from one track with the rest of the contemporaneous bubbles on other tracks to gain further insights into the evolution of the system.

I mean, for all we know each successive bubble may not even manifest the three fixed, essential properties (mass, spin and charge) in isolation but are only realized in the context of the whole. As an egocentric sentient being I am all potentia (the greatest, the biggest, etc. as well as the smallest, the weakest, etc.); it is only in relation to the rest of the human world can I reasonably gauge where I am, who I am, and what is possible for me. Where and how and why I diverge from/converge with other human beings and identify myself is psychologically, politically, existentially, practically meaningless without the others to compare and contrast myself.

One of the fundamental questions in linguistics (phonology and morphology especially) is:

"Is the order in which rules apply predictable from any properties of the rules concerned? [italics mine] If it is, no ordering statement would be necessary: the rule is said to be intrinsic. If the order is not given by the theory, and an explicit ordering statement of the type 'Rule X applies before Rule Y' is necessary, the rule order is extrinsic. The issue of intrinsic rule order occupied many phonologists in the 1970s, but the search for the principles that exhaustively govern the order in which rules apply is generally considered to have been unsuccessful [...]. A principle that has stood the test of time is the ELSEWHERE CONDITION. This is really a principle governing the application of rules in general, and has been invoked in morphology as well as phonology. What it says is that when one rule applies to a subset of the forms that another rule applies to, the general rule is blocked from applying to that subset. So it is not just a principle governing order, but also application as such, in a sense that only one of the two rules will be allowed to apply." (Gussenhoven and Jacobs, Understanding Phonology, 2013 p. 111)

When all is said and done, this linguistics principle is equivalent to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle of quantum physics that basically states that we can never know simultaneously the position and velocity of a particle; we must 'sacrifice' one measurement for the other.

Earlier in the Understanding Phonology book, the authors talk about the notions of "distinctive features" in relation to the notion "constraint rules" that govern those distinctive features (of natural segment classes)—to be sure, these principles also apply to natural morphological classes as the Inuit language amply supplies.

This is what is called a "formalist" approach to analysis where we look at different species within a system and how these species do and/or do not interact with each other. A dog, a chien, a qimmiq can mean the same thing up to a certain point. The original "bundle of properties" of the animal allows this in the same way that spin, charge and mass of a particle allow physicists to identify its species and class.

Pragmatics and structural efficacy. We grope in the dark but we are not entirely helpless nor even hopeless: what the luminaries of humanity have found may not be certain metaphysically but they consistently carry us to the right answers often enough for us to come to faith.