Assumptions

Assumptions are the bane of my existence. Many fields of scholarship have alluded to the inherent weakness of calcified shared assumptions, such as education and business (see below). Although shared assumptions can be a very healthy way of maintaining balanced social interactions, once they cease to evolve freely they become rhetorically and functionally tautological (see definition below).

We all have our faults and weaknesses. One of mine is “jumping the gun”. Occasionally I make a superficial assessment of something I read or see, based on false assumptions, then base a conclusion on incomplete information. Usually this goes unnoticed even by myself, because I seldom, if ever, leave any assessment as superficial. I am driven by some internal force to find out more, look at possible meanings, find the context. The superficial assessment serves only as a starting point in my process of education. I am, for the most part, a self-correcting system, in a constant state of intellectual flux.

There are times though, when I venture an initial statement on a subject before moving into the research stage. Usually these false statements happen in a conversation where I am feeling some pressure to participate, which is usually but not always a self-generated pressure. This invariably leads to miscommunication at best, embarrassment and/or hard feelings at worst.

Not to confuse this with my “off the wall” statements, and in particular “off the wall” questions. These statements/questions are usually based on a solid core of understanding, a seemingly unique perspective on a subject. This unusual perspective sounds ridiculous to other people (colleagues, professors at university while I was a student etc.) at first, until they hear the context of the statement/question. My questions are frequently regarded as irrelevant, crazy or “off the wall”, based on the conversant’s assumptions about why I am asking the question. Almost invariably though, once they answer the seemingly silly question, and listen to my response, they can abandon their own assumptions about what the statement/question must mean. Then they are free follow my subsequent logic and understand the point I am making. That is not to say that they will agree with my point, it is merely that they cease to regard the statement/question as crazy, and assess it on its own merit.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

SNOW SQUALL WATCH IN EFFECT
-27 °C
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -27.0°C
Dewpoint: -29.6°C
Humidity: 79 %
Wind: SSE 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -31

Quote

“Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end results of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.”
Eric Hoffer
1902 – 1983

Note

Jumping the Gun
“to do something too soon, before the right time”
Source: http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/jump_1

Off the Wall
“(informal) unusual and amusing; slightly crazy”
Source: http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/jump_1

Assumption
“a belief or feeling that something is true or that something will happen, although there is no proof”
Source: http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/jump_1

Shared Assumptions

The normalization of social interaction: When shared assumptions cannot be assumed
Marilyn A. Rumelhart
QUALITATIVE SOCIOLOGY Volume 6, Number 2, 149-162, DOI: 10.1007/BF00987085
Source: http://www.springerlink.com/content/t042253702136380/

How One Center of Innovation Lost its Spark
July 23, 2001, Donald Sull, Faculty
Harvard Business School
Source: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/2377.html

Tautological
“A rhetorical tautology can also be defined as a series of statements that comprise an argument, whereby the statements are constructed in such a way that the truth of the proposition is guaranteed or that the truth of the proposition cannot be disputed by defining a term in terms of another self-referentially”
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tautology_(rhetoric)

Out of Step

I am still attempting to elicit a response, since January 24th, other than “he’ll get back to you”, from our lawyer. He holds funds in trust for us and I simply want to know if they were paid out to the government. This is not a complicated question, yes or no, so I fear that the reason that we are not getting a response is that the funds are still held in trust and are gathering interest in the lawyers account. It could be worse than that, or it might be that he is busy with other things and even a simple answer is takes too much time out of his busy schedule. I hate having to wheedle for information that I feel should be forthcoming. But we need to know, so wheedle I must.

The weather is warmer this morning, only -14C just outside my kitchen window. It will take another day or two for the interior of the house to recover itself to a comfortable temperature. It is easy enough to bundle up until it warms up in here.

It is snowing. It is very pretty.

Today I am pondering reality. I know it is a malleable, chaotic entity, subject to endless debate, object of countless universalizations. I know that my reality intersects with the reality of the other, to varying degrees. I am thinking about two comments made to me by intimate friends, one a brilliant intellect, the other a brilliant musician. Of the academy, my intellectual friend told me, “it isn’t what you think it is”. He was right of course, my idealistic view of how knowledge is generated by scholars was sadly just that, idealistic. Of the experience of “normal” human interactions and social structures, my musician friend told me, “I hope you never find out.” What a beautiful wish he had for me, a kind and loving wish. I did find out though, about the numbing mediocrity that sustains progress, defines normal; but I also found out that nothing is so powerful that it never fails, including mediocrity, indifference and evil. Honour and beauty, truth and kindness may not always win, nor do they always fail.

As a small child I acquired language with a colloquial Scottish accent, for which I was ridiculed at school. It was my Great Great Grandfather who hailed from Scotland on the one side, and his wife’s parents on the other side of the family. A close knit family, the accent came down the generations to me, a gift. I met my Great Grandfather when I was a babe in arms. These ancestors, who came to Canada with their dreams and determination are a part of my makeup, both physically and psychically. For that reason the essence of the performance below speaks to me directly. When I play my bodhran, this is the spiritual experience I am having; alone and strong in the bush. Attila says my tongue is as strong as my spirit; slow to anger and passionate if roused. That’s me.

More information about this band at http://www.albannachmusic.com/

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-14 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 103.0 kPa
Visibility: 2 km
Temperature: -14.0°C
Dewpoint: -16.3°C
Humidity: 83 %
Wind: NE 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -17

Quote

“I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time.”
Orson Welles
1915 – 1985

Note

“Albannach in Scots Gaelic means “Scotsman”.
And Scots they are, born and bred; Jamesie, Jacquie, Donnie, Aya, and Colin write and perform tribal music with roots set firmly in their native soil’s haunting ballads and ancient war songs. A traditional pipe band they’re not… you’ll probably never see them march in a parade. But Albannach’s rhythms and melodies take you back to that bygone time when pipes and songs were banned because of the power they have to stir stout hearts and Celtic souls. Ye canna resist…”
Source: http://www.albannachmusic.com/

Food Labeling

Sometimes things shock me, that shouldn’t really shock me at all. One of them is the limited response to the Allergic Living “write-in“, a citizen’s opportunity to let the government know that accurate and thorough food labeling is important to Canadians.  My interest in and knowledge about food labels developed in response to my condition of anaphylaxis.  When I last checked this morning, only 1,545 individuals felt the issue important enough to let their voice be heard. Thanks to anyone out there who has already participated.

Where are the rest of my fellow Canadians, the other 33,738,355 Canadians, to be exact? Where is the media coverage that would bring this serious issue to the attention of Canadians? Why exactly is this issue not receiving the public recognition it merits? Whose interests are being served?

I can think of several examples where people have assumed that food or beverage were safe. They were wrong and people died. The Franklin Expedition, for example, assumed that the canned goods they ate were safe, and never knew that they had been poisoned by lead, which affected their cognitive functioning and compromised their ability to survive the other hardships they faced. Another, more recent, example is the Walkerton Tragedy, Walkerton is a community that assumed that government regulations ensured a safe water supply. They were wrong. And then there is tobacco, more Canadian labeling under fire.

It was interesting that at the time of the Walkerton Tragedy, when it first hit the news, I spoke out and voiced my concerns on a public forum. I was openly ridiculed for voicing concerns that were eventually addressed by the Walkerton Commission.

I find public complacence about food, beverage and substance safety issues shocking.

The sad thing is that I have no rational reason to find this complacence shocking.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-13 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 11 km
Temperature: -13.0°C
Dewpoint: -13.8°C
Humidity: 94 %
Wind: SE 9 km/h
Wind Chill: -18

Quote

“People need to be shocked out of their complacency about tobacco”
David Byrne

Notes

The Franklin Expedition
Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN (16 April 1786 – 11 June 1847) was a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer who mapped almost two thirds of the northern coastline of North America. Franklin also served as governor of Tasmania for several years. In his last expedition, he disappeared while attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, scurvy and exposure before and after Franklin died and the expedition’s icebound ships were abandoned in desperation.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Franklin

The Walkerton Tragedy
“The Walkerton Tragedy is a series of events that accompanied the contamination of the water supply of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada, by E. coli bacteria in May 2000.”
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkerton_Tragedy

Tobacco Lobby
“Canada became the first country to implement health warnings on cigarette packages when they initiated the use of warnings starting December 2000. Cigarette packages are required to have a health warning cover 50% of the front and 50% of the back of the package (one side in English and the other side in French, the two official Canadian languages). Overall, 50% of the package space is appropriated to health warnings. In addition to health warnings on the outside of packages, 1 of 16 rotated messages are required to appear on the inside of each cigarette package, either on the slide or on an insert. A set of 16 health warnings are rotated on packages.
Canada also prohibits the terms “light” and “mild” from appearing on packages
As well, Canada requires tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and benzene emission numbers to appear on the side of packages. Two numbers appear from each emission: one from the ISO and one from the Health Canada machine smoking method.”
Source: http://www.tobaccolabels.ca/currentl/canada

“Health Canada’s abrupt decision in September to back down from expanding warning labels on cigarette packages came after tobacco company lobbyists waged a co-ordinated, sometimes secretive lobbying campaign, CBC News has learned… But in September, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said plans to update warnings on cigarette packages had been halted, and the government’s new focus would be on fighting the sale of contraband cigarettes.”
Source: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/12/08/tobacco-conservatives-lobbying008.html#ixzz1C3IGgtxy

Travel by Starlight

My life path has not been straight or circumscribed; often I traverse my path by starlight.

Would I have met all the interesting and wonderful people that I have, were my path an easier, straighter, more affluent one?  I think not.

This winding path I follow, the starlight that illuminates it, offers sights and sounds and insights that fade in the big brotherish glare of our cultural sunshine.

Nurses Who Led The Way

Nurses Who Led The Way

One of my female relatives gave the gift of a book that influenced my way of looking at life, it was called Nurses Who Led The Way.
Source Image: http://www.amazon.com/Nurses-Stories-courageous-exciting-profession/dp/B0007EH5C0

Here is a woman I’d never heard of, and wish I had, particularly when I was young and needed diverse role models.

Stephanie Louise Kwolek

Stephanie Louise Kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek’s research with high performance chemical compounds for the DuPont Company led to the development of a synthetic material called Kevlar which is five times stronger than the same weight of steel. Kevlar, patented by Kwolek in 1966, does not rust nor corrode and is extremely lightweight. Many police officers owe their lives to Stephanie Kwolek, for Kevlar is the material used in bullet proof vests. Other applications of the compound include underwater cables, brake linings, space vehicles, boats, parachutes, skis, and building materials.

Source: http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blkevlar.htm

Source Image: http://chem.chem.rochester.edu/~chem421/famous.htm

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-20 °C
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -20.0°C
Dewpoint: -21.5°C
Humidity: 88 %
Wind: W 8 km/h
Wind Chill: -26

Quote

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Henry Miller
1891-1980

Preaching to the Converted

I’ve been writing in this journal for over a decade now. I’ve presented myself honestly; although not entirely, given the broad nature of the media. I’ve always felt stranded on a small psychic island, with a few special people, in a sea of mediocrity and denial.

My recurring childhood nightmare was one where particular familiar people physically transformed into horrifying blobby creatures, as they began to deny obvious truths, adopted falseness and attempted to enforce social wrongs. My first Sunday School teacher comes to mind immediately.

What makes my fellow islanders special is only that they are themselves, fully human, flawed, beautiful; they see me, I see them. My “whole hearted” list is a source of pure joy. You know who you are, and if you think you are on my list, or would be if we met, then you must be. I hope I am on your list.

I choose this journal to express what I know about being human. This lecture is interesting, as Ms. Brown uses an academic approach, one I am well familiar with, to describe the very simple concept of being human.