Endless Palaver

"What do you mean, it's wrong? In ethics we learned that the truth is always subjective!"


There can be no doubt that the teaching of correct written English has never been for the faint-hearted. So much so that the forensic parsing of paragraphs, once key to a grasp of the nuts and bolts of structure, has been abandoned in favour of an approach that appeals to mystified students. ('Syntax', if mentioned, means confiscation of your iphone for Instagramming during lessons, or swearing the dog wolfed your homework three nights in a row, else being despatched to 'iso' for testing the resilience of technology hardware.)

Overheard:

Beleaguered teacher, reaching for a one-size-fits-all solution: Remember, if it sounds right, it likely will be right!

Surely somebody, in the course of the lady's schooling, should of pointed out this is horse feather's and as such, obvs, its defo not on? Nor is the absence of full stops exceptable, irregardless of the need for fluency and spontaneity. Your asking the class to believe that King Charles I walked to the Whitehall scaffold twenty minutes after his head was severed. It puts Goves meddling in the shade, while the bloopers of split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions have long been out of court. Of course, theres little way of knowing where to put commas if you haven't tangled with adjectival and adverbial clauses.

It's no good blaming the teacher, though. Her's is an unenviable task and she probably didn't receive adequate tuition either. Plus, the possessive pronoun can sometimes seem a tad illogical.

Just because spurious expressions, misspellings, muddled concepts and random punctuation, or none, have passed into common usage, it doesn't make the situation okay. Too wrong's don't make a right. You know it! Daily, we're bombarded with words. Habits spread like an epidemic, even infecting those who know better.

Many argue that language is a living thing. It is evolutionary. But do we really want to deconstruct the enlightenment conferred by education and inspired achievement which are the foundations of a civilised society and have forged the better part of it? It's not about Me and My view of the world, it's about objective, consensual values and disciplines in the interests of everyone's wellbeing. How we regard language has a direct effect on behaviour. The hierarchy within it helps us form appropriate responses to any given set of circumstances. The choice to ignore it is, ultimately, a vote for anarchy.

We are at a pass where the world turns on hearsay.

People, this is no mere plea for shunning 'smoke and mirrors' jargon and the adoption of 'techspeak' where it doesn't apply. Such august authorities as Fowler, Strunk and White, Joseph Priestley, William Cobbett, not forgetting Dr Johnson, toiled tirelessly to prevent literary corruption, all with a view to clear communication at home and abroad and the democratic right to an education. Their design was to enhance culture, identity, and grant a voice in global affairs. Language is a means of breaking down complex and nuanced ideas, sensations, beliefs, into comprehensible chunks and stringing them together in a new pioneering way for the benefit of mankind. It's what creates cohesion between peoples. Even dialects are part and parcel of this, with their picturesque idioms that tell of historic experience.

The rules of grammar are analogous to those of building. You can't go wrecking the superstructure, else the house will fall down, the street will fall down, the city will crumble and the nation will be consigned to the annals of doom.

We shall be back to cave-dwelling and monosyllables. Ug! 

No joking!

 

 

423 Hits
0 Comments

Big Data Analytics

I spent time at work this morning reading big data analytic results. I should add that it’s time like these, when I’m being paid to read and think and nobody is bothering me, that I enjoy my job.

 

Some of the results I read were surprising, challenging assumptions. Ex-convicts make very good call center employees. Where you went to college is not a great indicator for business and professional success. Going to college and finishing are much better indicators.

I don’t know the words for all the things I read and discovered today. Knowledge can become very specialized very quickly. For example, I told my wife about the ex-convict results. Yes, she replied, but can they be trusted with credit card and personal information?

Her response is probably a modern response and I believe it’s typical. I think it’s some sort of transference. American society generally doesn’t trust ex-convicts. They broke a law and were caught and sentenced, therefore, we’ve proven they can’t be trusted. We have also demonstrated that some percentage of convictions is wrongful, numbers that vary by crime and geography, numbers influenced by race and sex. And more people in America are being sentenced for victimless crimes, such as possession of marijuana and other drugs purchased for personal use. We also have evidence that the monetization of penal institutions influences conviction and incarceration rates. Judges and DAs have been caught taking kickbacks from the institutions where they’re sending the convicted.

That highlights the differences between what data analyses can demonstrate against what people believe. I constantly encounter it on my job and weary of explaining the numbers and trends and again. We are people, though. Besides being capable of logic, we’re emotional. Once emotions color our perceptions, it seems difficult for us to drain those colors out.

The problem with acquiring knowledge is that it stimulates my thinking. That’s a lazy way of stating it. Acquiring knowledge and thinking more aren’t issues. Neither is being stimulated to think more. The problem, perhaps, is that I’m frequently perceived as a thinker but that many of my ideas and insights are difficult to follow. I know, it’s my issue, a matter of how I take that information and what I do with it – but I am a thinker, you see – but I’m also insecure, thin-skinned and emotional.

Anyway, I wondered after reading these big data results. I’d recently read that JPMorgan has decided it will only accept applications for analysts positions from Ivy League schools. That reduces their application pool and the subsequent work load to hire new employees, yet I wonder how this flies in the face of the big data results and whether JPMorgan is setting itself up for paradigm failure. I wonder if they’re yielding short term gains for long term losses, saving money by reducing their pool and hiring people fast, but losing money later because better analysts actually go to schools beside Ivy League institutions.

I wonder about how small businesses can be served by big data analytics. I saw numerous ways in which they can, from location and the name to wall paint color and décor decisions to hours, the music being played, and the services and goods being offered. Big data takes money. It’s not an easy process. But I think small businesses could benefit, especially in a place like my small town, where businesses come and go like migratory birds. My answer would be for the small businesses to form a consortium with the goal of having a big data analytics conducted on the businesses and the local economic/environmental influencers.  They could then share the costs. I imagine that as an economic project, loans and grants from the different governments could be found to support such a project.

Of course, I write novels and mull the frustrations of finding publication, creating a brand, marketing myself and my products and earning a living from the pleasure of writing. I mull what big data analytics would show about fiction publishing, especially in this age of self-publishing and digital publishing. One issue constantly encountered is that agents, editors and publishers seek what they enjoy but also try to follow market trends. I’d love to see big data analytics take on the subject.

Writing science fiction, it’s pleasurable toying with big data analytics and human events, like falling in love, committing crimes, finding work, illnesses and death. Isaac Asimov, one of my favorite classic hard science fiction authors, did a terrific job of using big data and analytics in his Foundation series. His scientists predicted a mutant outlier that would cause problems….

 (Aside – I sometimes wonder if my company actually employs big data analytics as much as it could, for surely that would tailor all their sales and marketing efforts and their new product requirements instead of demanding we present business cases and marketing plans to support launching new products and services….)

Big data analytics can’t quite predict everything, then, but the delta between what can be analyzed and what evades analysis is shrinking. I consider myself an artist. I imagined, drew, and painted long before I began writing. I designed cars and interiors and exteriors, and painted and drew in multiple mediums, turning down some small art scholarships to attend college to go do other things. I didn’t know ‘what I wanted to be’ and lacked the insight to realize that learning more would help me understand myself and my desires. I thought, perhaps because that’s how the instruction was geared in the schools I intended, that the goal to schooling was to graduate and find a job and earn a living. Scoffing at that, I joined the military. Problem solved, right? I had a job and I was earning a living.

Eventually I discovered I wanted to try writing fiction to express myself, and here I sit. As an artist, I think some fragment of being human will always evade analysis, a conclusion I share with many thought leaders in AI, robotics and automation. The one thing that can’t be predicted or duplicated remains the human imagination, for now. Some bold new paradigm may be emerging on the horizon, though, that will change that as well.

So, maybe someday some artificial intelligence will sit down to write like crazy and create fiction.

 

I’ll keep trying, though, for at least one more day.

1582 Hits
5 Comments

From Lot's Wife To Malala Yusafzai

Today on Human Rights Day when Malala Yusafzai is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize it is important to remember that it wasn't that long ago when in Europe and the US women were denied education.

In  the introduction to his book Equality for Some: The Story of Girls’ Education, Barry Turner states: “The female intellect is a recent educational discovery. Traditionally Western civilization has distrusted and discouraged clever women, initially because they were regarded as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the community.”

Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/from-lots-wife-to-malala-yusafzai/

 

1328 Hits
2 Comments

Hard Up Against Priorities

So here we are, hard up against our priorities in southern Oregon.  Like much of the western United States, we're coping with severe drought.  The snow base didn't rebuild last year after a shortfall the previous year.  The city was and is in danger of using too much water and running out.  

City council took steps.  They posted signs urging all of us to use water wisely and conserve.  Information fliers with tips for yard and plant care and intelligent water use were created, published and disseminated.  While water rationing wasn't announced, a tiered system for charging customers for their water use was created.  The more you use, the more you pay, which, like many things in America, rewards the wealthiest.  You can have and use water, if you can afford to pay for it....  If you can't pay, you must limit your use or do without.

Driving around town, the dichotomy is very evident.  Wealthier neighborhoods and home owner associations have lovely green lawns and beautifully flowering, green plants.  Poorer folks, or those with a social conscience, don't.  

What's also evident is who and where else the priorities lie.  The city and the university grounds are well watered, so much so that they're sodden in some places.  City and university grounds are also watered at the hottest time of day, making you pause to ask, 'What the what?'  It becomes a classic example of do as I say, not as I do.  Worse, however, are the football fields.  They've all been watered and maintained, which is galling to learn.  The education system is increasing class sizes while scrambling to save money, with teachers buying supplies for their classrooms, and here is money being spent to water the sports fields.

Yes, the priorities here are very easy to see.

1304 Hits
2 Comments

Latest Blogs

  Padre Felipe was laid to rest in the Camposanto. He was a good man – from just over the mountain. Not far – He knew this place. He was one of us...
  I was on an unintended winter walkthrough a quiet streamside forest. We call it a Bosque in these parts;that’s the old Spanish name. I had nowhe...
                                    To wish all American friends and colleagues a Happy Thanksgiving Day   A Pilgrim's Prayer ...
“All-changing time now darkens what was bright, Now ushers out of darkness into light”                                                                ...

Latest Comments

Ken Hartke A Winter's Walk
10 December 2019
Thanks. It's always an amazing transition from the grand show of October to the quiet of early Decem...
Stephen Evans A Winter's Walk
09 December 2019
Enjoyed the clarity of the writing, Ken.
Rosy Cole A Pilgrim's Prayer
01 December 2019
When working with children years ago, I created many acrostics. Most had the keyword somewhere down ...
Rosy Cole The Three Pietas
01 December 2019
Your penultimate paragraph sums it up well, that Life consists in faith, belief, in sheer creative i...
Stephen Evans A Pilgrim's Prayer
30 November 2019
I learned a new work today - acrostic - this is a good one!https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrostic