Saturday, 16 September 2017

How inter-community, inter-regional, and (inter)national communications between Inuit is possible

I've had what I consider a great privilege of working with Inuit organizations, government departments and interesting people (students and colleagues alike) on issues and challenges pertaining to the Inuit Language. I'm involved in an Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami task force that is looking into reforming and unifying the vastly diverse writing systems of Inuit groups from different regions of Inuit Nunangat (Inuit Homelands), and we've been struggling to envision how inter-Inuit communication would even be possible.

We've made great strides as a task force of Inuit whose languages (ie, dialects) can vary to the point of mutual unintelligibility the further the geographical distance exists between us (and we cover almost the entire circumpolar world). The orthographic conventions we've been working on and developing for a few years now is reaching the point where we'll be able to present a list of recommendations to the ITK Board of Directors in the not too distant future. Thus, the importance of testing out the script as it would unroll in each Inuit region of Canada.

Since we intentionally do not propose to change the unique dialects in any way the issue of converting dialects from one region to another for the purposes of sharing educational resources has seem like such a hurdle to overcome. And it would be weren't it for the shared grammatical structure that all Inuit languages are based on.

The Inuit language, as I've mentioned earlier in this blog, has a polysynthetic grammar - ie, it fuses together morphemic elements to construct meaningful phrases. The verb and noun roots, the infixes in between, and the mood and case endings may differ slightly or dramatically from region to region. But the principles of the grammar do not vary from dialect to dialect.

And this where the strength lies.

In a meeting yesterday with the Nunavut delegation, it suddenly occurred to me that we should exploit this strength and try and come up with an app or software that is designed to analyse and convert one dialect to another by focussing on morphemic features and functions that though may differ at the surface level but do not vary in function are elements that all Inuit dialects share.

For example, the differences between the pronominal endings from dialect to dialect may be accounted for and converted to another because the grammatical function is exactly the same no matter the dialect. In fact, all morphemic elements may thusly be convertible.

I think this approach has the potential to be a game-changer at the international level because the more elements are data-based the more dialects can be converted into another (as long as there is a common orthography on which to base the conversions on). This is a very exciting prospect to me.


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Edward T Hall: a stranger in a strange land

I'm not anthropologist/sociologist so I don't know if Edward T Hall's work is obsolete, but he is one of those whose work I admire (besides Max Weber, of course). According to Wikipedia, he was an influential colleague of Marshall McCluhan and Buckminster Fuller with his work on what is called, proxemics, or how culturally-specific conception of space (and time) influences different cultures differently. I think I still own a couple of books written by him.

His insights were very important to me as I struggled with the inevitable (sometimes) vast differences between the worlds in which my parents grew up and lived in and that to which I was enculturated by my education (which I inadvertently intensified with my natural curiosity). I've always felt somewhat alienated and have always been quite sensitive about it.

Things haven't seemed to really changed at all. In fact my awareness of Hall's wonderful insights seem to have alienated me further. I love living and working in Rankin Inlet and have made wonderful friends there. But I am still me: always the stranger in a strange land. The loneliness I sometimes feel (even at a house party) does become overwhelming, and, I must admit, puts me increasingly in a state of clinical depression which seems to last longer than the previous ones. I sometimes cannot even leave the house for days.

I'm a teacher but I've always made a conscious effort to not try and change any of my students in the same way new knowledge changes or affects me. I'm an Inuk and not a white person but I'm very much aware that I really don't belong in either. Only once or twice in my life have I come across people of similar circumstances. But even these have turned out to be only "two ships in the night".

Sometimes when I'm marking my students' papers I'm reminded of how different I am (or, feel that I am very different). What makes me empathetic can also become a source of great personal pain and loneliness.

Edward T Hall's work is something that I deeply appreciate but it takes too long to unroll to people who've never read him. I know that I'm going through what he describes so ably but I cannot share it to alleviate my sense of alienation. I sometimes feel that I subject people I love to a Cassandra Phenomenon - Cassandra is a mythical figure with whom Apollo falls in love and gives her the gift of prophesy but she spurns his love so he curses her so that no one can ever believe her warnings. But I digress.

The Cassandra Phenomenon is a term that is used to describe people like me affecting those we love deeply:

and here:

This syndrome is I think why I live alone. This fact of my life really bothers me because it really isn't my choice.

Now why did I make the connection between Hall and the Cassandra Phenomenon? Because I think Aspies and Cassandras suffer most deeply the inadvertent misunderstandings and miscommunications that almost need an Edward T Hall to sort out.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

hork....hork...'secuse me, I have to vomit a furball

oops. let me preen myself.

dang! that's gonna hurt.

ok.. you may vomit the furball.


I swear, it must be this big...


it's this big, I tell ya.

wait. let me see if I can pass it the other way

it's like giving birth

hey, trump el-don, little bro

it's coming


see!!! I told you it was yuge.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Those left behind by suicide

When my brother, Wally, was adopted by my parents I was old enough to consciously perceive the ambivalence I felt towards the event. It became easier when I saw that my mom and my sister (who is just younger than me) absolutely adored and loved him—he was always small with a big heart, a true definition of a mensch. It seemed as if his whole being was surrounded by the immediate and unconditional love of these two wonderful souls and I came to accept him as my real brother.

Always in the back of my mind as an older brother I felt something that I couldn't quite define but that which would eventually take him away from us. I felt protective of him throughout our childhood though we were not as close as he was with my mom. That some families in Clyde River never accepted my dad (who came up from the Iqaluit region to work for the Hudson's Bay Company to net seals and shore up their annual shipments of seal skins and as a result gave pretense to justify their unkind regard for our family) gave me further cause to feel protective of him. I never told anyone of this but sometimes I'd secretly feel vigilant and watchful over him. I've always been kind of distant and aloft even to my parents but I still feel a certain deep connection.

I have memories of his genuineness: his obvious joy in seeing others good fortune; his natural ways of showing real appreciation of his mom and sister and his friends; and so I have memories of not getting along and the guilt that comes with them. I'm haunted by my memories both good and bad.

When he became a teenager he got a girlfriend from another community. But his happiness was unacceptable to some who had bullied him most of his life. That they had no compunction in trying to take away his love simply because of who he was is something I still struggle to forgive and move on.

When he took his own life my nephew who was panicked greatly tried to carry him in his arms to the health centre. I think he was screaming for help as he ran with the dead body just as my mom who had been visiting was coming out of her friends house. Thinking it was a drunk person she ran back into the house laughing nervously at her reaction. Had she seen the real situation I know in my heart she would have ran the opposite direction. I think she feels guilt when the memory inevitably comes to her though it's totally unjustified and that a jury of her enemies would have forgiven her for that.

My distraught parents couldn't deal with sleeping in the house that night so they stayed at ours. I remember the next morning when my dad awoke I was in the next room. I heard him stir and mutter quietly, "aittaa", as he wept. My dad the stoic, who had trained his mind to ignore the pain of even a growing cancer in his body, reduced to that state...

Though I've since wanted to die many times, I cannot. The devastation suicide leaves behind is something I've personally experienced (as many families in Nunavut have).


Sunday, 3 September 2017

First completed qajaq project

Here are pictures of the first model qajaq that I completed. I plan to make as many replicates of different styles as I can.

almost completed.

from a different angle.


this completed project is about 3 feet long and about a foot longer than the very first one I started but have yet to complete.


"my hands are too big"

Trump was putting on gloves during a photo-op in Texas recently and made a point of his hand size: "My hands are too big":

Here is the actual size of his hands:

He's 6'2", I'm 5'5" and my hands are actually bigger than his freakishly small hands.


Saturday, 2 September 2017

a million dollar(?) president

We're not sure where and how the 45th intends to pledge his(?) $1M to the Harvey relief. Is he a billionaire, or merely a window-dressing one?

-a million bucks is "a drop in the bucket". Check out a pledge from a real billionaire: