Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Literacy and maths geek : QED

September 30, 2016

maths-shirt-edited-slogan

What future for the average intelligence student? The problem with education “for employment”

July 10, 2016

Both our major political parties are talking about education to fit students for jobs in “the new economy.”  At the same time  Our Coalition Government wants to give Company Tax reductions to large businesses.  However, for large companies,  increased company profits invested in expansion tend to lead to job losses.

Not just from offshore subcontracting of labour to exploited workers with no leave entitlements, OH&S rights,  or superannuation. Consider  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36376966

It includes a quote from a former McDonald’s senior staffer : “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries.”

The main item in the article is that 60 000 (probably OH&S nightmare) jobs have gone because Chinese factories invested in technology not humans – even at their pay rates the robots are cheaper.

These job losses are not just the semi-literate jobs.  Consider the rise in expert systems, even self-reprogramming learning systems: the first white-collar job robots are already here, even doing work for lawyers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/05/16/meet-ross-the-newly-hired-legal-robot/

The students know about this.  They know that machine intelligence researchers are even starting to find ways to program the machines for creativity.
(see John Gero on Creativity emergence and evolution in design concepts and framework
and  https://www.jwtintelligence.com/2016/06/cannes-2016-creativity-and-machine-learning/  )

So why should the less bright and less creative struggle to learn the basics, if they are told education is “to get a job” and they know they are headed for love on the dole?   (Read Greenwood’s book, or at least a detailed review, if you haven’t come across a film or play adaptation yet )

It is time for the meme of “education to be fit for work” to die.  Move to “education to get tools to make more fun and happiness, or dodge trouble.”  Start classes in “Learning something new without a teacher’s help, and demonstrating it to others,” “Comparing and testing health benefit claims,”  “Bullshit detection,” “website reliability testing,” “effective complaints,” “Dealing with Bureaucracy 1:  Completing a basic tax return so you don’t pay your refund to an accountant,” and  “Dealing with Bureaucracy 2:  Complying with Dole paperwork requirements.”

Of course, you may end up with a lot of activists trying to improve the Nation because they realise that the  current socio-economic system is the source of much unhappiness.  They may even realise that money is just another social construct – and not a good one – and demand a world run on social obligation instead.
Would that be so bad?

Too many Sodomites in politics nowadays…

February 19, 2016

“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. ” (King James version)

 

For the less literate – New Living Translation
Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.

  http://biblehub.com/ezekiel/16-49.htm

Just sayin’ .

How to reduce crystal meth use in Australia (and elsewhere) in the longer term.

December 8, 2015

Our Noble Leaders have started talking about “Australia’s Ice pandemic”.

I don’t think that word means what they think it means. I believe the internationally accepted definition of a pandemic  is : ‘an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of  people’.  (Last, J. A Dictionary of Epidemiology (4th Edition) Oxford University Press 2001)

Not crossing international boundaries.   I think they could call it an epidemic – but not a very big one.

Then they talk about stopping it by “talking to young people about risks” and by law enforcement action.  Not about changing the education system from “learn this stuff to get a job” to “learn this stuff to find and make fun and beauty you couldn’t understand without it, and so you will never be bored even if locked in an empty room.”  Not about making risky activities like adult-sized versions of adventure playgrounds available in all suburbs.  Not about social support (guaranteed shelter, food, health care, and safety needs in exchange for the dole cheque?)  for the desperate.  Even though these would mean that people would (like the rats in enriched cages) be less inclined to seek escape through crystal meth, alcohol, and other drugs.

I expect that the right-wing parties in Oz won’t  talk that way, not for the next 20 years.  After all, we know the source of their “Scientific” theories on how the world works.  They don’t care about accuracy, and not just in abusing the word “pandemic.”  For example our Federal Government’s Minister for resources and energy pronounces “nuclear” as “newcewlar.”   Rational action to reduce the risk of youth turning to drugs?   5 years after the Republicans give it the OK they’ll consider it.  Sigh.

What I wrote and what they printed 09 Nov 14

November 9, 2014

Mind you, I didn’t mind all their changes.  A few were good.  Guess which ones I would accept …

What I wrote:

Is terrorism the right word?

In response to the abuse of Muslim people and vandalism of places seen as mosques:

In my time, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians have oppressed and killed people for having the wrong religion – or the wrong branch of a religion.  Israeli soldiers stood by while Christians came and slaughtered mostly Moslem refugees in a refugee camp. The USA will not accept a non-Christian president, and say that atheists cannot be trusted. Should they be abused and their holy places vandalised?

Every belief system has extremists who (often from deep belief) attempt to force their beliefs on others.  Most religion have aspects of the holy texts and related traditions which evil can use to lead others to horrible action. Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake, remember.  Every religion also has people who use only the parts of the creed which lead to tolerance and the best human actions.

I think we could adopt the word “daeshi” to mean “bigot who imposes their views on others.”  (It helps that the Islamic extremists hate the word.) I think that the current “anti-terrorism” actions should be reworded to be “anti-daeshi”, thus making the offence one of promoting the denial of freedom of belief for those one disagrees with, not one of planning violence.  (Yes, a limitation – with criminal penalty – on freedom of religion and cultural tradition.)

Similarly, I think that members of any sect which oppresses others when in power, or which state that they will do so, should be denied refugee status unless they abjure the part of their creed which denies others equal rights regardless of religious belief.

What they printed:

changes in red

Every religion has its oppressors and bigots.

In response to the abuse of Muslim people and vandalism of places seen as mosques, in my time Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians have oppressed and killed people for having the wrong religion – or the wrong branch of a particular religion.

NP Israeli soldiers stood by while Christians came and slaughtered mostly Moslem refugees in a refugee camp.

NP The USA will not accept a non-Christian president, and say that atheists cannot be trusted. Should they be abused and their holy places vandalised?

Every belief system has extremists who (deleted: often from deep belief) attempt to force their beliefs on others.

NP Most religions have aspects of the (was “their”) holy texts and related traditions that (was “which” ) evil can use to lead others to horrible actions.

NP Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake, remember.

NP Every religion also has people who use only the parts of the creed which lead to tolerance and the best human actions.

Deleted all of para: I think we could adopt the word “daeshi” to mean “bigot who imposes their views on others.”  (It helps that the Islamic extremists hate the word.) I think that the current “anti-terrorism” actions should be reworded to be “anti-daeshi”, thus making the offence one of promoting the denial of  freedom of belief for those one disagrees with, not one of planning violence.  (Yes, a limitation – with criminal penalty – on freedom of religion and cultural tradition.)

Deleted:  Similarly, I think that) members of any sect who oppress (was:  which oppresses) others when in power (deleted: , or which state that they will do so) ,  should be denied refugee status unless they abjure the part of their creed which denies others equal rights regardless of religious belief.

 

This example free for use in discussion of style, Newspaper editing,  and the politics of free speech.

A quote that got me wondering – and where I went from there.

October 14, 2014

The quote:

I decided to track down the source of an often quoted bit of “Children of Dune” by Frank Herbert:
When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.
 “Quand je suis le plus faible, je vous demande la liberté parce que tel est votre principe; mais quand je suis le plus fort, je vous l’ôte, parce que tel est le mien.”
Conversation avec Augustin Cochin.
but in French Wikipedia it says
Pierre Pierrard explique que cette phrase a été mise dans la bouche de Louis Veuillot par Montalembert sous la forme « Quand les libéraux sont au pouvoir, nous leur demandons la liberté, parce que c’est leur principe, et, quand nous sommes au pouvoir, nous la leur refusons, parce que c’est le nôtre.»  et citée le 3 juin 1876 à l’Assemblée nationale par Jules Ferry.  Elle a depuis, sous des formes changeantes, été constamment r.épétée bien que dès le 6 juin suivant Veuillot eût protesté et affirmé que cette phrase n’était pas de lui.
– that is, he probably didn’t say it.  But people in 1876 thought it was worth having him say it.

 Where I went from there

 Many countries have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

the term “refugees” applies to any person who:

“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

I know that most –isms and religions have some extreme adherents, who honestly believe that the rest of the world should  follow their beliefs.  Some of these form groups devoted to achieving this.   Some of these groups believe that failing to follow their beliefs makes one less than human, and that non-believers should not have equal rights with believers – for instance,  it may be that atheists, agnostics, and miscellaneous pagans cannot get employment documents.  Some go further and believe that force should be used to make some others comply – for example, live peacefully with “People of the book” but use threat of death to convert everyone else.   Some go further still, and wish to kill  even those who hold to  a  different interpretation of their holy books while  following the same version of the divine, or whatever other social belief is important to them.

Being a devout agnostic, I am deeply aware of these groups. I have met people who assume that I am worse than untrustworthy because I don’t claim to have a god I believe in, even though those who lie about their beliefs or ignore their religions’ rules are much less trustworthy (Seen the statistics on child abuse?)  I avoid going to certain countries because  I don’t want to have to lie about beliefs in order to travel safely.  I worry about their spread.  Especially the extremists who believe that abortion clinics should be bombed, and that no non-christian should ever be President,

 I suggest that all members of the United Nations publicly state the following: 

We will only give refuge to those who commit to reciprocal tolerance of others’ belief and lack of belief,  and to recognition of all human rights.

The extreme case

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be treated as they would treat others.    If their group generally  say that those who convert from their belief should be killed, they  must not be given refugee status unless they renounce that aspect of the belief, and if they later recant the death penalty should, logically, apply.  If they deny others’ evidence equal weight before the law, their evidence should so be discounted in the country of refuge.   If they would tax unbelievers more heavily than their own, they shall be taxed heavily in the country of refuge.

The moderate case – or is it?

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be  denied refugee status.  If they are refugees from another such group of differing belief – well, that is fair exchange of oppression.

The interaction of this with overseas oppression

Where a government oppresses others in such a way as to make people become refugees, that government should not generally be assisted if another oppressive group attempts their overthrow.  Intervention should only be on a humanitarian basis. Refugees should not be sent back to an oppressive regime, as they have renounced the oppressive culture and will therefore be liable to greater risk.

If a self-proclaimed government attempts to invade other nations and enforces oppressive beliefs,  that requires immediate and forceful response from the United Nations – Peace Makers, not Peace Keepers.  The attempted invasion  is not just a war, it is a denial of human rights extending across borders, which is a much more serious and urgent matter.  If we stand idly waiting for someone else to fix it, we encourage all extreme belief groups to try their hand at the same game.

And that, I would pay higher tax to avoid.  I would travel to be a “grumpy old pensioner” on the battlefront, to embarrass the invaders until they stop that so that my grandchildren will be safe.   (Besides, it beats relying on the social system in old age, now that the illiberal and small-hearted are running the county.

 

Barley Grass: disambiguation

October 9, 2014

I am sensitive to barley grass in all forms – touch of the leaves is enough to make me itch.  This is  (Hordeum. glaucum and H. leporinum.    http://archive.agric.wa.gov.au/objtwr/imported_images/barleygrass%201.jpg from http://archive.agric.wa.gov.au/pc_93448.html?s=1001)

and was surprised by the number of places advertising barley grass as a strengthening drink good for controlling allergies.

 

Turns out the health fooders are talking about the leaves of young barley plants.  (Hordeum vulgare, Hordeum distichon)

!  Why not call it barley leaves, then?

 

I am sure someone will think “I can blend my own barley grass drink to reduce my allergies” and end up with allergic swelling of the throat – not safe.

If you know someone thinking of making their own, make sure they start with safe barley seed.

 

Stupid deaths, stupid deaths, hope next time it’s not you!

April 29, 2014

I always hesitate to press “Like” when items like the one below are posted.  I feel for the grief of their families, though there is a touch of “Evolution in action” there too.

Idea for an advertising campaign:  Introduce each of  a set of news items like this with “Use your phone while driving?” and end with the tag “…and, all over the world, people will talk about how stupid you were.”

(Thanks to Horrible Histories TV series for the heading.)  The linked HH video is flickery, but the end-pun bites.

“Just cats and porno…” Pfui! My internet is different.

March 25, 2014

The internet one sees depends on the links one follows, and the same applies to its famous subset, facebook.

I get a few cute cats via facebook – and yes, I have shared some – but I ee a range of things that the popular media do not have in the public image of the net.  Spotted on facebook:  in a discussion of

‘The mindblowing issue that Weber raised: Beruf cannot be worship….but yet it IS somehow. Ever wondered if the world would be different without the Reformation?”

( beruf : calling, duty, task)   – (link to see a translation of  Politik als Beruf, part of the background to the discussion.)

one post:

“The Protestant work ethic in Weber’s time

By the time Weber wrote his essay, he believed that the religious underpinnings of the Protestant ethic had largely gone from society. He cited the writings of Benjamin Franklin, which emphasized frugality, hard work and thrift, but were mostly free of spiritual content. Weber also attributed the success of mass production partly to the Protestant ethic. Only after expensive luxuries were disdained, could individuals accept the uniform products, such as clothes and furniture, that industrialization offered.

In his remarkably prescient conclusion to the book, Weber lamented that the loss of religious underpinning to capitalism’s spirit has led to a kind of involuntary servitude to mechanized industry.

“ The Puritan wanted to work in calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the ‘saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment.’ But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage. (Page 181, 1953 Scribner’s edition.) ”

Weber maintained that while Puritan religious ideas had significantly impacted the development of economic system in Europe and United States, there were other factors in play, as well. They included a closer relationship between mathematics and observation, the enhanced value of scholarship, rational systematization of government administration, and an increase in entrepreneurship ventures. In the end, the study of Protestant ethic, according to Weber, investigated a part of the detachment from magic, that disenchantment of the world that could be seen as a unique characteristic of Western culture.[5]:60

And among the responses:

Weber was desperate to conceal the labour theory of value; he thus places the foundation for capitalism in the ‘work ethic’ falling back on the old moralism of Adam Smith that wealth comes from the ‘hard work’ of an individual. Nonsense. Wealth is accumulated from the surplus value (unpaid labour) of the workers put to work by the capitalist. And why are these people available to be put to work? Because their birthrights in the common lands were stolen by a previous generation of emerging capitalists.

These are just adults talking about ideas that interest them in light of current events and a fair knowledge of history and sociological/political/economic theory, in geographically separate lives.   I know that some of them have read and understood Weber’s works in the context of the time in which they were  written.

I am glad that they have the opportunity to chat this way, and that I can read  the conversation the next day.   I have the opportunity to think about it, find further resources, and decide whether to join in – and in the process, question my own assumptions about the society in which I live.

I love this application of technology.

Do the politicians think we have no memory? Part 3

March 23, 2014

After an Australian election, if  one party gets a majority of the whole population vote but another party wins the majority of seats the losing  politicians regularly grumble, throwing around words like “gerrymander.”

Politicians say they want schools to teach students to understand and value our way of government.  They say they want schools to emphasise teaching of history, and it is an important part of our history that a great deal of care was put into setting up our system, which started peacefully and by negotiation well after the hasty and violent starts of the main European countries and the USA.   They say they want these things in the curriculum,  but I wonder whether they want voters to remember their schooling when they come to vote.

Background  to  the Australian Electoral System

(Skip this if you know it already)

It was a deliberate choice to have States’ federal Senate numbers equal regardless of population and representing proportional votes within each State, to prevent the tyranny of the majority.   They were certainly influenced by John Calhoun’s ideas on concurrent majority as an approach to the problem, ideas still discussed this century .   It was also a deliberate choice to have each voter  have as many preferential votes as there are candidates up for election in the State,¹ a change made in 1949, even though the mathematics and vote tracing were horribly curly in the days before computerised  counting.    A voter may vote for all one party first, or one Green, one Independent, one Labor, one Liberal, and one Euthanasia party candidate, then mix up the remaining candidates in any order as long as each candidate has ves preferred number on the paper.  If a candidate has more first preferences than ve needs (one-sixth-plus-one of the votes is the quota if there are 6 seats), ves surplus votes are distributed as first preferences in proportion to the preferences of the voters who gave ver the votes.  Candidates who get less than the fraction needed to get a seat are knocked out from least votes up, and at each step the loser’s votes next preferences are distributed and the scrutineers check whether someone has got the quota.    (Messy!  I’m not making this up – check with the Australian Electoral Commission)  No wonder they introduced “Or you can tick one party’s box and we will distribute all their preferences the way they have told the us to.”

It was also a deliberate choice to have each House of Representative seat linked to its own area (and electorates other than islands are single patches of land), and that the voters from that area  vote  for  individual candidates as individuals, though the candidates  could ally to parties.  That way, local interests could be well represented by someone known to the locals.   Also, in each area, the voter has preferential votes as in the Senate – so that if they like Alan but would rather have Jan than Ursula if they can’t have Alan, they can try for Alan but know that Jan will get their vote if he fails.  They just number the order of preference in the candidates’ boxes.  This means that you don’t get someone hated by 60% of the electorate into the seat just because the 60% have slightly different ideas about the best way to do things and vote for 3 other candidates first.  If they all prefer a 4th to the 40%er, they get their way.

Demographics

For philosophical reasons, State governments have been selling off State-owned housing in expensive areas, buying housing in less expensive locations,  and subsidising private rentals for those in need – who can seldom get private rentals in the prime locations.   In addition, those short of money sell out of high-value areas to free up the money, and the wealthy seek houses close to well-known exclusive schools and other valued social resources.  This has led to the service-providers (shop assistants, teachers, police, cleaners, etc) having to travel long distances to work, and tertiary students having to travel hours to their studies, with the associated travel costs – while the wealthy are within easy foot or  public transport access of resources.  This is fair in the  eyes of those benefiting from the user-pays  approach, and they see its good points:  after all, if the State provided enough low cost housing in the  upmarket areas, the dregs of society would lower property values.  An additional benefit is that the local State schools have a better class of student and parents and thus better outcomes than in the more difficult suburbs..

You got over half the total but not enough seats.  Problem?

True, there are many reasons people vote their different ways, but let’s pretend that wealth-aligned interests are usually enough to swing the vote.  Let us assume that the electoral boundaries are fair, with pretty similar numbers in each electorate, and thus there is no real gerrymander.  Our Electoral Commission does work at being fair that way.

Pretend there are 10 electorates.

Rich party has 90% of the votes in each of 4 electorates.

Poor party has 60% of the votes in each of 6 electorates.

% of total voters                   %  of total vote             seats / 10

R 36%        P 4%                                 40%                      4

R 24%        P 36 %                              60%                      6

total votes by  party                 R 60 %        P 40 %

Total seats by party                 R   4             P  6

Don’t complain.  This was part of the design of the Australian system, deliberately included to control concentrated power groups with regional agendas inimical to the wider society.   This is in the curriculum – the intersection of History with Society and Environment.   Why don’t the journalists call the politicians on this, rather than just quoting them?

I am so annoyed that I am going to shout.  

If  you want a greater proportion of the seats, have a better distribution of your supporters across electorates. 

A good start would be:  Get out of your enclaves of power, and make housing available for the “lower orders” closer to the places that they work.  If you can’t stop the worsening inequality, at least reduce home address’s value as a predictor of socioeconomic status.  

 

¹ I know, it is really “a preferential vote” but they used be allowed to number only a limited number of preferences and I wanted to make the distinction .