Freedom School: Political Correctness Panel

January 31st/February 1st 2014,  there was an event in Edmonton called ‘Freedom School:  Essentials of Freedom.’

One of the many excellent parts of the program was a panel on Political Correctness:  a number of speakers addressed Political Correctness in different spheres of our life and from widely differing angles.  The short little speeches were followed by a very lively Q&A.

Perhaps I am jumbling the order of speakers, but, I admit I am a little biased…  So, please forgive me that I present the last speaker first:

Freedom of Speech: still under fire

As Ezra Levant reminds us, freedom of speech is under fire all over the world.  He recently raised the case in Spain, where an ex-Muslim is being threatened with deportation to Pakistan, where he will most certainly face death for blasphemy.

But, it is not only something that happens in the illiberal European Union:  freedom of speech is under fire, right here, in Canada’s capital:

Next week, the 24th, 25th and 26th of March, 2014, Mark and Connie Fournier of the formerly ‘Free Dominion’ (currently ‘Censored-Out-Of-Existence Dominion’), will be back in court, fighting to protect our freedom of speech on the internet.

It is, indeed, the continuation of the ‘Dr. Dawg case’ which had been summarily dismissed in a ruling where the judge was incredulous that Dr. Dawg was willing to admit – in court – to having conducted himself as foolishly as he had.  At least, that is my highly imperfect understanding of that ruling.

Aside:

While I have observed the various legal opponents of the Fourniers’ in court, and have found many of them to lack charisma, I cannot say this of Dr. Dawg.  He may be dead wrong on this issue (in my never-humble-opinion), but, he is a charming guy with a disarming smile.  And, he is always meticulously turned out:  not stuffy, but striking and he takes great pride in his always polished and tidy riding boots. (The ones with the adorable silver trimmings – I’ll be sure to let you know if he wears them in court next week….and they are ‘riding boots’, not ‘cowboy boots’, as I have erroneously reported in the past.  I know, because Dr. Dawg was kind enough to send me the link to them, so that I would make the necessary correction – which, of course, I am more than happy to make.  So, to be sure – they are ‘riding boots’, not ‘cowboy boots’ – and they always look polished and well groomed!)

And, sometimes, Dr. Dawg wears hats – I am very partial to hats!  Did I mention the most awesome steampunk hat my son got over the March break?  Hats get the thumbs-up from me!

Plus, Dr. Dawg had brought a young man (whom I presume to be his step-son) to court to observe some of the non-Dr. Dawg related cases:  this, I truly respect because as a parent myself, I really appreciate the importance of teaching civics lessons to our young people.  So, kudos to him for that – even if I disagree with this particular case of his or his politics in general.  After all, it is our duty to teach our young ones to respect the process – and think for themselves:  the rest is up to them!

But, enough of my ranting…refocusing:

Even though the ruling was for the Fourniers and Peter O’Donnel, a frequent poster at Free Dominion, the court of appeals overturned the summary dismissal.  I am sure there were very sound legal reasons for this, but, to my untrained mind and ‘farmer’s wisdom’ (the best, yet clumsy, translation of my dad’s favourite expression – implying ‘layman’s comprehension’ as my father was not a farmer and not even a gardener (this early pioneer in AI’s outdoor activities during my formative years being exclusively limited to tennis and windsurfing), and thus his comprehension of the ways of farmers and acquisition of any actual ‘farmer’s wisdom’ was quite literally non-existent – I’ve never even seen him mow a lawn…not even once!), it sounded like a bunch of hypothetical judges thought:  “Wow, one of them new-fangled ‘internet cases’ – here’s our one and perhaps only chance to make a ruling that will go into the textbooks – so, let’s prolong it as long as possible, because, after all, we are getting paid to do this:  the poor schmucks in front of us have to pick up the bill!”

OK, perhaps I am overly cynical, but that is what it sounds like to me and my legally untrained mind…

But, regardless of the reasons, the Fourniers will be in an Ottawa court room (Elgin St. Court house, for those wishing to pop by and support either side, or just curious about the ways of our justice system) and, health permitting, I will be there to report on it, to the best of my highly limited abilities!

P.S.  Omar Khadr is not, according to the United Nations own definition, a ‘Child Soldier’ - and anyone who claims otherwise is a snotling fondler and a silly-bunny to boot!!!

Blogging will be light…

Will be in transit for the next 36 or so hours – thus, no internet….my apologies!

The Manning Networking Conference 2014

Yesterday and the day before, I took part in the Manning Networking Conference 2014.

Specifically, I was helping Connie and Mark Fournier from Free Dominion in their booth:

ourbooth1

The t-shirts, golf shirts and sweatshirts were donated by the rock-star of journalism, Mark Steyn, to help the Fourniers raise money for their legal defense fund.  Here he is with the Fourniers and their helper:

steyn4

It was a wonderful, yet somewhat overwhelming, event:  met so many interesting and wonderful people, it’ll take me a while to digest it all.

Manning Networking Conference 2014

If you are planning to attend the Manning Networking Confeence 2014, please, do stop by booth #302 – the booth that was generously donated to Free Dominion:  I’ll be helping out there, so, please, do stop by and say ‘hello’!

In related news:  blogging will be light as I’ll be ‘afk’ and at the conference.

 

The things my hubby says

I think that I have the bestest, most perfectest husband ever possible.

Not only is he incredibly punny, he also says some of the sweetest things ever!

For example, one of his favourite sayings is:

Don’t pet the sweaty things!

OK, so his dyslexia may have something to do with it, but it carries much the same meaning as the original, don’t sweat the petty things, but with a lot more panache!

Another one of his sayings:

Strong like bull – smart like bag of hammers!!!

And, he pays me the sweetest compliments ever!  Just the other day, he told me that I was 3 standard deviations from the mean!!!  What could be sexier than that?

And today, he called me ‘his personal Wikipedia’!

Did I ever mention that Aspie-to-Aspie marriages tend to be the happiest and most long lasting ones?

Rmember, Remember, the 10th of December

Today marks a bittersweet day.

10th of December, 1980, at the age of 13, I arrived in Canada to start my new life!

While in the refugee camp, I did a little bit of looking after some sheep on a hobby farm.  Through an unbelievable  coincidence, the owner of the farm had a son who had the male version of my name – and who was born on the very same day I was (day and year).  SO, he took a bit of a shine to me.  When I told him we got into Canada and would be leaving, he gave me parting gift – some Canadian cash!

Aside: he would occasionally give me presents of Austrian money for looking after his sheep and for helping his octagenarian mother (who was afraid of strangers, especially the emigrants, but seemed to suffer me OK) with whatever she needed – something I was happy to do, presents or not, as it gave me things to do…the boredom of endless waiting to learn your future can be deadly!  From this money, I was able to save up enough to buy winter boots for myself and my parents:  something I was very, very proud of!

The journey was long and tiring – we were collected from the hostels in the foothills of the Alps where emigrant families had been stationed starting shortly after midnight and did not get into the main camp of Traiskirchen, just outside of Vienna, until well into the afternoon.  (No, we were not hungry – we had boxed meals with us, just tired and excited.)

There, we were split up into empty beds in many large rooms of 30-or-so people.  But, the residents whose numbers we were supplementing made it clear that we were disrupting their routine and were not welcome. It was also there that we were told the weight restrictions on our luggage, so we had to get rid of some of the few things we had carefully chosen to bring along to help us tart our new life.  I had to give up the only book I had managed to hold on to till then (by Karl May) – perhaps this explains why now I collect books rather obsessively.

At 5 am or so the next morning, we got up and boarded the buses for the airport.  It was very exciting!  As I knew I had to leave the book behind, and since there were no lights out in my room, and since I was very, very excited, I calmed myself down by re-reading the book during that night.  Well, most of it, anyway.  It was a calming mechanism and saying good by to a book that had gotten me through difficult times in the past.  (I credit this book with having made me so curious about Egyptian culture.)

Once at the airport, we saw the airplane on the tarmac.  It stood there, all by itself, with stairs at the front, middle and back.  When, after a few hours, the doors opened, releasing us emigrants onto the tarmac, people started sprinting towards that airplane!

And I started sprinting towards freedom with the rest of them!!!

I got in and saved 3 seats for me and my parents, we got settled, and that is all I remember of the flight.  I have a vague recollection of my parents talking to some of the other people, but, after 2 nights of not sleeping, now that I was safely away from Europe, I relaxed and fell into a deep sleep.

My dad woke me up as we were descending into Montreal.  Disoriented by irregular sleep and time-zone-change, I had no idea what time of day or night it was – I just saw that it was dark outside.  Once we landed, an announcement went out over the airplane that people who are to go to Toronto or Vancouver were to stay put, and only those going to Montreal and Ottawa are to de-plane.

It turned out that there were two families going to Montreal – and that we were the only family going to Ottawa!  A full 737 – and everyone but our 3 families was going to Toronto or Vancouver.  In retrospect, it was rather nice of them to have stopped in Montreal instead of making us go to Toronto and then backtrack.

Once on the ground, we were no longer emigrants – now we were immigrants!  Oh, what a glorious difference!

At immigration at the Mirabel airport, the two families going to Montreal were me by their immigration officer.  However, nobody knew anything about us.  The kindly lady there offered to call the Ottawa office, and we waited a couple hours for a response.  It turned out that they forgot about us.  They asked if we had any money.  My dad had some German Marks and my mom had some Austrian Shillings, so we said yes.  They told us to use the money to buy a bus ticket to Ottawa and, by the time we got there, someone would be there at the bus station to pick us up.

No problem.

We went to buy the bus ticket – the last bus for the night was leaving in 20 minutes, but they would only accept Canadian currency.

We went to the foreign exchange kiosk to get some Canadian money for the Marks or Shillings, but it was closed.  A security guard told us we could try the one at the other end of the airport.  So, suitcase and carry-on each (we did not know the trollies were OK to use for everyone), we rushed to the other side of the of the airport to get our money exchanged.  That kiosk was also closed…and these were the only two currency exchange kiosks at the airport.

My parents were beginning to panic!!!

This is when I pulled my going-away present out and wondered if it would be enough!  My parents were reluctant to use my money, but saw no other way out.  It was just enough – we only got about $2.00 back in change.

So, off we were to Ottawa!

Everything looked so exotic and strange and, well, ‘wild west’!  The houses did not even have stucco on the outside, exposed bricks showing!  I’d never seen anything so exotic!  In retrospect, it seems to me that some of the other passengers found my excitement, well, amusing…

When we finally pulled into the bus station in downtown Ottawa, it was well past 11 pm.  A guy in a fancy-looking coat and an expensive scarf picked us up in his car, drove us to the Bytown Hotel in downtown Ottawa, booked us in on his personal credit card, gave us breakfast vouchers, and told us to report to the immigration office at 300 Laurier Street the next day.

Thus ended my first day in Canada!

This memory is sweet – but I cannot remember it without noting that 10th of December also marks the death of Aqsa Parvez in 2007.

Here was another young woman who, like I once was, had been filled with promise, with hopes of living the full life of a Canadian woman!  Yet, she had the misfortune to come from a different immigrant background than I.  My parents helped me become a true Canadian.  Hers killed her for daring to try…

Aqsa Parvez – as long as I live, I will mourn you!

Returning to civilization

Finally – internet!!!

It has taken me a while, but I am slowly beginning to catch up on what has been happening in the world over the last week.

And while I did not get to see a live white moose (not albino), even though I was deep in ‘white moose country‘, I did manage to get a shot of the next best thing:

 

IMG_20130710_123439

Note – this is not a hunting trophy, as white moose are protected.  This particular unlucky guy died in a train accident.

CodeSlinger on Combinatorics

A couple of days ago, I mentioned to CodeSlinger that one of my sons was doing research in the branch of Mathematics known as ‘Combinatorics‘.  His response was not only informative, it was just as passionate as my son gets when he talks about the subject. 

So, for your pleasure and elucidation, here is CodeSlinger’s commentary on Combinatorics:

Combinatorics… the art of counting.  Hah.  Sounds trivial.  But it is slowly becoming clear that combinatorics lies at the root of everything.
Everything.
The fundamental equations of physics are symmetrical in time – if we watch a movie of two particles coming in from infinity, bouncing off each other, and proceeding back towards infinity, we have no way to determine whether or not we are watching it backwards.  Yet a movie in which a vase falls from the table and shatters on the floor is easily distinguishable from the time-reversed version, in which a myriad of shards come flying together, assemble themselves into a vase, and jump up onto the table!
The difference, of course, is that there are many ways for the shards to be distributed about the floor, but only one way for them to be assembled into a vase.  And that difference is the essence of… counting.  This leads us to the second law of thermodynamics: entropy increases with time.  Or, if you prefer, systems evolve towards states of higher probability.  But probability is nothing other than a relative count of possibilities.  Counting again.
Without counting, there is no arrow of time.
But it gets better.  The whole idea of counting presupposes the existence of things to count.  Which requires us to draw distinctions.  And indeed, we find that distinction is the fundamental act by which something comes out of nothing.  Assuming that a distinction can spontaneously arise out of the void, it will do so – because there are more ways for the void to be cloven than for it to be whole.  Counting again.
If we picture a distinction as a boundary in a space – a closed curve in the plane, a closed surface in space, and so on, then we see that the lowest number of dimensions in which a boundary can assume a configuration that cannot shrink to nothing is… three (the simplest such configuration is the trefoil knot).  Thus we see hints of how a universe of 3 spatial dimensions and one time dimension can spontaneously arise out of nothing.  All because of counting.
Similar considerations explain how this universe comes to contain fundamental particles, and why the have the properties they do.  And ultimately, why consciousness is possible.  All of human feeling can be reduced to drawing or perceiving distinctions, and all of human thought can be reduced to classifying and counting them.
Thus we have the age-old question of which is more fundamental: mathematics or logic.  For centuries men have been trying to derive one from the other.  Finally, a little-known genius by the name of George Spencer-Brown settled it by showing that you cannot derive mathematics from logic, and you cannot derive logic from mathematics.  But there is a more fundamental system, which he called the Laws of Form, from which you can derive both.
He begins with one primal element, which can be viewed as an entity (a distinction) or an action (drawing a distinction).  A boundary can be seen as a way of naming the interior (calling), or as an injunction to cross into the interior (crossing).  Having drawn a distinction, we can draw another one, either beside the first (recalling), or around the first (recrossing).  On this base he lays down two laws, as follows
The law of calling: recalling is the same as calling.
The law of crossing: recrossing is the same as not crossing.
If we denote a boundary as (), then recalling is ()() and recrossing is (()), and we can write these two laws very succinctly as
()() = ()
(()) =
where the right hand side of the second equation is literally empty, denoting the void.
And from this basis, utterly brilliant in its irreducible simplicity, he derives all of mathematics and symbolic logic:

Spencer-Brown, G, 1969: Laws of Form, London: George Allen & Unwin.

But this is only the beginning of the story.  Frederick Parker-Rhodes asked what happens when you repeatedly draw a distinction and get a multitude of identical entities.  From this, he developed a calculus of distinct but indistinguishable entities:
 

Parker-Rhodes, A F, 1981: The Theory of Indistinguishables: A search for explanatory principles below the level of physics, Synthese Library, vol. 150, Springer.

And on that, he constructed what he called the Combinatorial Hierarchy – system whereby the spontaneous emergence of distinctions from the void leads to… the standard model of particle physics.  Astounding!  Even more astounding, he never published this work!  It was finally published for him posthumously by John Amson (see linked pdf):
 

Parker-Rhodes, A F, & Amson, J C, 1998: Hierarchies of descriptive levels in physical theory.  Int’l J. Gen. Syst. 27(1-3):57-80.

The construction he outlines in this paper was implemented as a computer program by H. Pierre Noyes and David McGoveran (again, see linked pdf):
 

Noyes, H P, & McGoveran, D O, 1989: An essay on discrete foundations for physics.  SLAC-PUB-4528.

So when I say that combinatorics lies at the root of everything, I really do mean everything!
It is brilliant!

A little light-hearted fun

The days are growing long, the weather is getting warm – it puts one into a whimsical mood.

So, what if you could spend a day with 12 people – famous people living or not.

As for ‘famous’ – it could be anyone you can name or describe (example:  the first person to invent the wheel) them.

Send your top 12 in in the comments and in a few days, I’ll make a post of the lists.

 

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