Friday, December 26, 2008

Chicago reawakening

Chicago Compass
Originally uploaded by union_clown

I remembered a part of myself today, a part that went missing years ago that I didn't notice among all the clutter of trauma and flurry of running. It is a part of me that once reawakened caused me to mourn it's absence even though I never noticed that it had gone. It came back to me during my trip to The Field Museum with my dad (though I was left to myself most of the day as I "take too long" to go through an exhibit) where I spent the day wandering amid the relics of civilisations past and dinosaur bones, including the dinosaur that for the first half of my life was my beloved brontosaurus (now apatosaurus (I don't know if the Field Museum was calling it an apatosaurus growing up, all I know is that I called it a brontosaurus and had a brontosaurus lunchbox) Sidenote: brontosaurus shows no red squiggly line of bad spelling whereas apatosaurus does. Hmmmm).

Amid the carvings and the idols of the ancient Aztecs I remembered that child like quality that I had lost for so many years: my need to experience things tactilely. When it was gone I do not remember. I do remember walking through Chicago and having to run my hands over every different kind of stone surface that I would meet. To not just see the buildings and hear the city, but to touch it, to know it, to feel it. I remember, back in art school, asking to run my hands over paintings that were not flat, always liking those with texture more then the others (and making them that way myself). To feel the complexity of emotion, the hidden layers where mistakes and old feelings were hidden away beneath a new coat of paint. To interact with something that was not just flat, and to me that makes it flat in more ways then one-funny for a printmaker, but rich and complex and layered. Knowing that whatever was buried there was just a few scrapes away from exposing itself to the world.

It came to me staring at the first piece in the Aztec exhibit which was a statue of some unknown stone pockmocked with tiny craters. I knew that if I could just touch it my experience would be fuller. That I would somehow understand it more; that I would become more involved in the exhibit. So I did all that I could do: I imagined what it would feel like. I flipped through every single piece of rock that I had ever touched until I came across something that resembled the one standing in front of me. I recreated it's features, even the pieces that had succumbed to age and had fallen off and especially those that were crumbling. I continued to do this throughout the rest of the exhibit. Through the rest of the museum. Imagining what the ancient papyrus in the Egyptian exhibit must feel like, at one point actually getting to feel hieroglyphs. Touching the models, knowing that the texture was wrong but the topography right in my journey from the beginning of the earth.

I missed this. I'm realising as I type this that I have been doing this to a small extent as I have visited my ancient old growth stands, but that is more like caressing an old friend. But these streets, these buildings, all these things that I encountered...they can be friends too. Possibly just acquaintances for a brief time, telling me their story and moving out of my life forever, but at least there will be that.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Calling all Scientists

Right now I'm doing some research on the Force Concept Inventory and gender differences in performance on the FCI. I have also been in contact with Laura McCullough and will hopefully be receiving a copy of what they used for research, the "Gender Force Concept Inventory." (In which there seemed to be a marked improvement by both sexes except on one problem.) We're (hopefully) going to give the GFCI & FCI (randomly) to both the algebra and calculus based classes next quarter.

Anyone have any resources, articles, etc on this subject? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

The cool thing is that J & A approached me with this idea for a research project.

I'll actually post more on what I'm doing later. There's more to what I'm doing, because what J & A are trying to do is figure out how to fine tune inquiry based physics education. J's original proposition was that he wanted to find of if inquiry based classes worked better for men or women, so that's the bigger picture and of course working on IB learning betterment regardless of gender. We're thinking that the FCI is a good place to start, but of course if the questions are crappy then we're never going to be able to accurately gauge how well the class is doing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Indecision Oh Eh?

Canucks watch here

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A moment of silence please

Today marks the 19th anniversary of the École Polytechnique Massacre.

The shooter, who claimed that feminism had ruined his life came into a classroom and separated the nine women from the approximately fifty men and ordered the men to leave. Speaking in French, he asked the remaining women whether they knew why they were there, and when one student replied "no", he answered: "I am fighting feminism". One of the students, Nathalie Provost, said, "Look, we are just women studying engineering, not necessarily feminists ready to march on the streets to shout we are against men, just students intent on leading a normal life." Lépine responded that "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists." He then opened fire on the students from left to right, killing six, and wounding three others, including Provost. Before leaving the room, he wrote the word shit twice on a student project He killed 14 women. Here are their names:

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department.
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

OH NO! Canada's going to split into tiny pieces!


To those of you who don't pay attention to Canadian politics, you really should right now. This is one of the most interesting times in Canadian political history. Right now 2 of the national parties, the NDP and the Liberal Party have forged a coalition deal that would, when the confidence vote fails (it's only a matter of time Harper, just deal with it) create a coalition government led by the Liberals. (You can read the accord here.) The Bloc Québécois is not formally part of this coalition, but has pledged their support for the next 18 months. (If only we could have Gilles as PM. *sigh*). Not only that, but Green Party leader Elizabeth May has also lent her support to the coalition. That means that 4 of the 5 major parties are UNITED behind this effort. And they have all made concessions. (As one does when one makes alliances like this. And also as one does to actually get shit done in government.)

Let me take a step back. Besides being evil, or as Gilles Duceppe likes to do let's just say that Harper is the Canadian Bush, Harper did a few things to bring this on. He did what every politician does and said that he would make an effort to work with the other parties, then he calls an election (which he said he would not call, btw) and the first thing he does is spit on the other parties. (Well, more accurately poke at them with a sharp stick.)

This is in no particular order, but has a common theme.

1) Proposes to take away public subsidies of political parties. As it stands now, each vote earns the party $1.95.

But because the Conservatives have such a strong fundraising base, their subsidy represents only 37 per cent of the party's total revenues.

By comparison, the subsidy amounts to 63 per cent of the Liberals' funding, 86 per cent of the Bloc's, 57 per cent of the NDP's and 65 per cent of the Greens'.

So who gets hurt? Every single party in opposition to the Conservatives.

Well there are several points in this one link so here's the link and here are the points:

2) Cutting public service pay

3) Suspending the right to strike for federal employees

4) (My favourite) PAY EQUITY! Who needs it!
And he would put a crimp in pay equity – a program that requires Ottawa to pay women equal wages for work of equal value – although there is no evidence that the current system is either iniquitous or expensive.

And then there's the Tories taping a private caucus call of the NDP. (Hello, ever hear of Watergate?)
The Prime Minister's Office handed out copies of the recording to reporters on Sunday, claiming it showed the NDP and the Bloc Québécois had long conspired to topple the Conservative government.

And there's also that whole thing where Harper and the Tories like to insult the Bloc at every opportunity. (Because they're evil and THEY HATE CANADA AND ARE TRYING TO DESTROY THE COUNTRY! HIDE YOUR CHILDREN! THE QUÉBÉCOIS ARE COMING!)

One poke too far? Did he seriously think that a *larger* minority in Commons would somehow make the opposition go against the Charter of Rights? That they would let you bulldoze through them doing whatever the hell you wanted? Yet he continues to show that he thinks that getting several more seats for the Tories makes him able to do whatever he wants without the confidence of the Commons. There was supposed to be a confidence vote that Harper put off until the 8th trying to stave off the inevitable. What happens now is up to the Governor-General. She has several (historic) options: If Mr Harper asks her to prorogue (all bills, motions, etc are expunged and the parliament is in recess), her likely response is to ask him to prove that he has the confidence of the House. He can’t do that, so he’ll either have to ask for an election or resign. If he asks for an election, she can’t really grant it to him given that she has a letter from the coalition - according to convention she pretty much has to allow the coalition an opportunity to demonstrate that they can govern. An election will be the last resort. This is what I'm hoping for and this is what historically happens. But we shall see, not won't we.

To see *exactly* what's been happening may I suggest CPAC (It's the Canadian CSPAN). December 1st's Question Period (I hope this works as a direct link to the video if not just search) is rather good and December 2nd's is even better. It was all over the news as this is a rather historic time in politics and times like these have never been seen in Canadian Parliament. (At least not broadcast.)


Of course they want the prorogue, because it would give them more time to spread their lies. They're calling the opposition alliance and possible unseating of the Tory government an undemocratic, illegal coup. As one expert said Harper either doesn't know parliamentary politics or he's lying. I know which one my money's on. They're also saying that the separatists are going to be running the nation. Um, well, no, the Bloc is not part of the coalition and Duceppe already said that he pledged to support and do what's best for CANADA during the next 18 months under the coalition government. Again I say OH NOES! THE SEPARATISTS ARE RUNNING THE COUNTRY! OMG CANADA IS DOOMED! During the 12/1 Question Period session Harper kept saying that they refused to sign the Coalition Accord in front of a Canadian flag when there's a lot of footage of them IN FRONT of a Canadian flag. The guy just can't stop lying. Here's to a new government and soon.

But for some brevity (and common sense) in this situation may I suggest Canadian Cynic and Bloodless Coup!.