Mark Linkous R.I.P.

March 7, 2010 at 10:13 pm (Uncategorized)

I read today with sadness that Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse committed suicide on March 6, 2010. He was 47 years old.

I saw the band open for Son Volt at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in the mid 90s. Great show. Bought their first album, Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot a little while after: Whispered vocals, haunting country flavoured songs, occasional rockers. Great album.

Hadn’t listened to it in years, but I felt a need to dig out the album today. Still good.

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Jump! A look at Math

March 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not really a math person. That’s a telling statement isn’t it? If I wrote, I’m not really a reading, or even, I’m not really a writing person, people would look down on me as some kind of intellectual inferior. Yet, lack of math skills is held up as a kind of virtue in some circles.

A  few years back, I read a book called Innumeracy about mathematical illiteracy. The author mentions watching TV with friends when the weather report came on. The announcer noted there was a prediction of a 50% chance of rain on Saturday, and a 50% chance of rain of Sunday. He concluded there was a 100% chance of rain that weekend. The author’s friends who earlier in the evening had droned on about some or other grammar point remained silent.

If you’re my age, (mid-40s), you probably remember sitting in a math class doing times tables drills. 1 x 1 = 1,  1 x 2 = 2 and on it went. Dreary to be sure, but I still know my times tables. Today, well no, there’s the calculator for that isn’t there. But it’s the same problem with writing, something I’m quite passionate about. (and yes, I know some grammar teachers tell you never to end a sentence with a preposition): if you don’t know the rule, how can you know the mistake?   

On Friday I went to the Jump math conference in Toronto. Jump is a non-profit organization which argues there is a myth of math ability: everyone can do math. I few years ago, I bought and read Jump founder John Mighton’s book, The Myth of Ability about the jump philosophy. Very interesting and convincing book. The basic thesis is that math can always be broken down  into smaller steps and you shouldn’t move onto the next step until you’ve mastered the current one.

Hardly revolutionary, but they’ve had great success with it (and of course some failures as nothing is automatic). They publish a series of workbooks you can buy from Amazon and other places, but if you register at the site, there are plenty of free downloads.

The conference consisted of a panel discussion, workshops, and a featured speaker (and a nice lunch!). I have no political agenda here, but I do like this program. Have a look.

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