Category Archives: Epistemology

The Question of Public Service and Public Education or Burn the Federalist

James Madison’s letter to W. T. Berry (1822) is interesting reading into some of thinking about the significance of public education. I’ve been reading a lot of historical documents recently given subjects of the day to grab some context, especially given the woes of public education in places like Chicago, where money keeps getting in the way of solutions. I’m still waiting for the “bailout” of the states in the same vein as the “bailout of the banks.”

It’s in this context that I fail to see the significance of some journalistic responses to Obama’s convention speech as “not all that great,” the theme of which focused in high points on the relevance of public service. Did the speech have to be fantastic? Barack Obama has already proven that he can give fantastic speeches. The narrative: Let’s wait for Obama’s fantastic speech, and somehow this will fix everything. This was exactly NOT the point of the speech (which was the genius of the speech). For the president to swoop in and solve all the ills of the world was exactly the opposite message. One commenter I heard on TV said that his speech was probably the 4th best. No standard was provided. Some people are supposed to have an opinion on the “waves.” We’re supposed to be smart enough to understand this.

Madison writes

But, besides the consideration when the higher Seminaries belong to a plan of general education, that it is better for the poorer classes to have the aid of the richer by a general tax on property, than that every parent should provide at his own expence for the education of his children, it is certain that every Class is interested in establishments which give to the human mind its highest improvements, and to every Country its truest and most durable celebrity.

And further on (anticipating the moieties perhaps created by standardized tests), he writes

But why should it be necessary in this case, to distinguish the Society into classes according to their property? When it is considered that the establishment and endowment of Academies, Colleges, and Universities are a provision, not merely for the existing generation, but for succeeding ones also; that in Governments like ours a constant rotation of property results from the free scope to industry, and from the laws of inheritance, and when it is considered moreover, how much of the exertions and privations of all are meant not for themselves, but for their posterity, there can be little ground for objections from any class, to plans of which every class must have its turn of benefits. The rich man, when contributing to a permanent plan for the education of the poor, ought to reflect that he is providing for that of his own descendants; and the poor man who concurs in a provision for those who are not poor that at no distant day it may be enjoyed by descendants from himself. It does not require a long life to witness these vicissitudes of fortune.

If we’re worried about money, then we should be assured by the question of all kinds of potential properties, even if teachers will be willing to forgo that prosperity in the short term for some for of pension in the future. Our country is of a size Madison could not probably have imagined. This does’t mean we shouldn’t weigh potential inflation (code for “state bailouts and give the teachers, the cops, and the fire people the raise they need”) against some sort of greater good in the name of public service.

Or we could say this: you know, we just can’t afford it. Then burn the Federalist and all Madison’s letters.

Lots of people will disagree with this:

Hire all the teachers, cops, firefighters you need and pay them the wage they need
Fund the research
Provide the loans
Change the rules around forming unions
Invest in that transit project
“Foster the useful arts”
Let anyone who wants in in
Leave peoples’ morality alone
Build those space ships (I love space x, but I also like my cordless drill)
Fine, support as much as the military wants, but let’s be reasonable
Get the banks back to banking
Speculation tax
Write your own list
But pay for it, if you know what I mean.

The Real Problem (bullshit) with the Ryan Speech

There are a few critiques of Paul Ryan’s Wednesday speech that can now be defined as boilerplate. This does’t mean that they’re incorrect. Rather, it means that they don’t really go to the heart of the matter: sophistic manipulation. Juan Cole, for example, identifies the Janesville issue:

7. Ryan slammed President Obama for the closure of an auto plant that closed in late 2008 under George W. Bush. Ryan’s running mate, Mitt Romney, opposed Obama’s actual auto bailout, which was a great success and returned Detroit to profitability.

And here’s Jonathan Cohn at TNR:

It’s true: The plant shut down. But it shut down in 2008—before Obama became president.

Just an accuracy point: it didn’t shut down; it was shut down.

Both writers are responding to this Ryan segment:

A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

While Cole and Cohn are factually accurate, Ryan never refers to the problem of a date, a segment of questionable time, or to cause and effect (on Wednesday, August 29, 2012). Ryan’s is a repetition, though less inaccurate, of another speech he gave in Ohio (on August 16th, 2012). In terms of cause and effect, the Ohio speech is more telling, as Ryan attributes the cause to Obama administration energy policies, which is demonstrably false, both anachronistically and in terms of factual policy effect (which, I assume, Ryan is well aware of. This is an example of a howler). In any event, the Ryan quote at the convention averts the date critique by concentrating instead on something else: the powerful accusation of betrayal. Ryan quotes Obama: ““I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.”” CNN has done a fact check of the “quote” and concludes:

The only thing Ryan appears to have gotten technically wrong in Wednesday’s version was saying that the plant didn’t last another year. It did last another year — more like 14 months — if the Isuzu line and its 57 workers count.
So, though Ryan might have been incorrect in the August 16 telling, he cleaned it up for Wednesday’s convention. Obama said what Ryan said he said.

They also miss the point, and I’m not referring to the 4 minus 2 algorithm. This example of fact checking is about as squishy as a slug. I love this part: “The only thing Ryan appears to have gotten technically wrong . . .” Otherwise, they miss the entire point. And just to push, CNN writes: “So, though Ryan might have been incorrect in the August 16 telling . . . ” What is the penchant for this passive form: “might have been incorrect . . . ” Just change it to: “So, though Ryan [was] incorrect in the August 16 telling . . .” Please.

Ryan has a method for using the quote that goes to Obama’s lack of commitment and trustworthiness to save a specific plant where school mates of Ryan worked. After all, Obama said the plant “would be open for another hundred years.” Well, not really, but my readers should grasp the point. Rather, Obama reneged on a promise because Obama said in his very words: “If the government is there to support you . . .” which necessitates a “then.” In programming terms this is an “if then” statement. The promise was: “I will keep this plant open for another hundred years.” This is not the meaning of Obama’s original expressions, though. Nor were the words meant to be understood this way. But no matter. In other words, if he had been in charge, even though Obama could not have known the plant was doomed to close by the “free market” Ryan would have used the power of the federal government to keep the plant open, even if the market for SUVs had soured, which is, of course, not what he intends to mean, but asserts nonetheless. When it was closed, when one knows it was closing, or why it closed isn’t treated in Ryan’s speech. The implication is that Obama is not as committed as he claims to be: he can’t be trusted. He did not “support” the plant as he promised. The basis for the accusation is non-historical.

The second part of the speech snip is important to study.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

“It didn’t last another year.” “It is locked up and empty to this day.” ” . . . the recovery as promised is nowhere in sight.” Read those sentences over and over again, please. Here we have Ryan making the typical apples, oranges, and conflation errors that in cynicism speech are mean to beat a drum rather than demonstrate a relationship or support an actual assertion. The answers to the quiz are: yes, yes, and “what promise?” The image: all over the country, plants are “locked up and empty” because Obama did not bring on the “recovery as he promised” will stick, whereas the obvious silliness of “all over the country plants that were supposed to stay open another one hundred years were betrayed by Obama,” which is what Ryan actually says, is couched in thick clouds written by word smiths probably paid to craft language not obviously falsifiable. This, to me, is obviously unethical and “immoral.”

That’s the real problem with the Ryan speech. Cole is right and Cohn is right. But their knives aren’t sharp enough. Even Republicans should be unnerved by this level of breech of trust.

On the Ryan Choice

I just think it’s odd. Ryan’s ideas have been out there a long time and serious critics have had a chance to weigh in. Once the disclosure luster fades, we have to meat to debate. Now’s as good time as any other. I’m ready. I don’t think there’s a critical mass readership of Rand to warrant that direction, however. How many people have read Billy Budd?

Ryan Budget Stuff.

Center on Policy and BP stuff.

On Trust, Honesty, and Authority: A Review of Twilight of the Elites

In TS Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men, Eliot ends with reference to famous whimpers: those of Fawkes and Marlow. The poem is something other than its apparent whole in the context of other works.

Like reading a soda bottle for its calculus and its physicality, its material ecology.

Or like reading bond deals in this article titled The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia by Matt Taibbi, which tells the story of United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg, and Grimm. Taibbi describes the shenanigans in similar terms as Christopher Hayes’s book Twilight of the Elites. An example: Taibbi first:

This incredible [fair price] defense, which the attorneys for all three defendants led with, perfectly expresses the awesome arrogance of the modern-day aristocrats who run our financial services sector. Corrupt or not, they built this financial infrastructure, and it’s producing the prices they genuinely think are fair for us – and for them. And fair to them is the customer getting the absolute bare minimum, while they get instant millions for work they didn’t do. Moreover – and this is the most important part – they believe they should get permanent protection from the ravages of the market, i.e., from one another’s competition. Imagine Jack Nicholson on the witness stand, dressed in a repairman’s uniform and tool belt. Who’s gonna fix those refrigerators? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? You can’t handle the truth!

Now Hayes:

We now see ourselves ruled by a remote class. They may not wear flowing robes, or carry miters, but they are marked in their own way as separate and distinct. The distance between those who will be bailed out and those who will not is the ultimate social distance, and it has grown so vast it now strains the bonds of representation that hold the republic and its people together. (215)

Taibbi’s piece explores, by telling the story of the Carollo case, the extent of this “corruption.”

Hayes’ book is about corruption and an idea he terms the “crisis of authority.” It’s not about the casual remark I often hear (and speak myself): “politicians, oh, they’re all crooks.” My father would frequently bristle with this sort of language at the mention of Nixon. Both Hayes and Lessig explore the nuance. Taibbi’s is a more concentrated version.

But to get at this nuance requires inspection of the notion of authority and its complex of relations and opposites, some of which I’ll go into from a literary and geological perspective.

Consider Beowulf and his “war” with Grendel as a tale. Beowulf partly derives his authority from his observable prowess of arms and intelligence. They hear him undue Unferth and they see him fight. In Yi Fu Tuan’s terms, recalling his tremendous Space and Place, the parent is a “place” to a child, a source of comfort, trust, and orientation. Beowulf acts as this sort of orienting agent, and when he eventually dies by dragon, the community will tend towards disorientation. So the metaphor goes. And so, knowing Beowulf’s authority mediated by reputation, Hrothgar hires him.

Beowulf is “trusted” by being “entrusted” with the task of protection. Connectedness is associated to trust in a geographic sense oriented on the “physical” body. Hrothgar breaks a piece of himself or his ability and gives it to Beowulf: he is given the authority to act in Hrothgar’s place. And he knows what he’s giving up in that bargain. A wedding band works in similar geographic terms. I wear a “piece” of my partner on my finger. Hence connectedness and yet another link: honesty, which, etymologically speaking is a characteristic a body earns from others. It would be hard to judge someone honest without some form of relationship. Trust as Trustee, one who may act in another’s place.

Our modern relationship with ULAs is instructive, which is a form of non-agreement agreement. When a user clicks Accept to upgrade their version of the Flash Player, I doubt that that user reads the agreement. Users may not really know what they’re agreeing to, which is a form of blind trust or faith. The consequence of clicking Do Not Accept will result in an expensive paper weight. In other words, this is a form of piecing oneself out without knowing where your pieces are going, a form of disorientation or space blindness.

Lawrence Lessig, Christopher Hayes, and Matt Taibbi cut into this form of disorientation through their examinations of modern corruption. People don’t trust institutions and for good reason. But we should. That’s the significant issue. When municipalities go through the bonding process, they shouldn’t have to worry about banks gaming the system. Taibbi writes

Over the years, many in the public have become numb to news of financial corruption, partly because too many of these stories involve banker-on-banker crime. The notorious Abacus deal involving Goldman Sachs, for instance, involved a hedge-fund billionaire ripping off a couple of European banks – who cares? But the bid-rigging scandal laid bare in USA v. Carollo is a totally different animal. This is the world’s biggest banks stealing money that would otherwise have gone toward textbooks and medicine and housing for ordinary Americans, and turning the cash into sports cars and bonuses for the already rich. It’s the equivalent of robbing a charity or a church fund to pay for lap dances.

Who ultimately loses in these deals? Well, to take just one example, the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Finance Authority, the agency that issues bonds for the state’s hospitals, had their interest rates rigged by the Carollo defendants on $17 million in bonds. Since then, more than a dozen New Jersey hospitals have closed, mostly in poor neighborhoods.

Much of these stories, as Hayes details, have to do with the modern concept of space and place and how perceptions have changed between people in relation to those concepts, as Tuan develops them: place as connection and space as disconnection. Congress, our representatives, our goods makers, our banks, our varieties of media have become removed, not geographically in the sense of being somewhere (we know some building somewhere houses the servers) but removed from experiences that effectuate the building of relationships that return human regard and positive meaning not simply reinforcements of self. Partly, this is the story of polls that show extreme negatives and distrust for modern institutions. For Lessig, the reasons for this distrust are less important than the mere fact that the distrust is real.

Hayes in his last chapter runs through not just the negative attitudes but also data about egalitarian views, citing a study by Norton and Ariely. Hayes concludes, “We are more egalitarian than we, ourselves, realize” (228). This is significant in relation to polls weighing positive negative view on institutions. In a sense, this is a “search for” fairness or an alert to the synthesis between trust, authentic experience, fairness, reciprocity and cooperation. See Cremer and Tyler (pdf) for one aspect of this kind of study.

It’s pretty intuitive that people would trust what is near (place) and distrust what is distant (space). When what has been near and is soon found to be distant or unfathomable (see Taibbi on the Carollo case), the sense of self-trust is damaged. That which was once perceived an invulnerable (Penn State) shown to be vulnerable or outright criminal also points back to our own sense of confidence. As Hayes puts it: “They [Tea Party and Netroots] share a sense that they are no longer in control, that some small, corrupt core of elites can launch an idiotic war, or bail out the banks, or mandate health insurance, and despite their relative privilege and education and money and social capital, there’s not a damn thing they can do about” (232).

Thus, when Grendel attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11 and brought them down, we sought out Beowulf. But those Beowulfs entrusted to us have proven themselves inadequate to the task, as cheats, fakes, and Unferths. This analogy is overly simplistic: we live in a big country not in a Geat village. Nor is it all that profitable to write what might seem a glorification of a poem pointing to anything resembling real-world experience; that would be like holding to the images of football coaches in their honorific poses, chiseled into bronze. Beowulf is an ideal, but its metaphors can be telling and significant. In a world of polymaths, all the polymaths would starve, as Plato argued in The Republic. We need to count on and rely on each other and share our talents in our complex ecologies.

Hayes argues in his solution for reconnection. I interpret this as a rebuilding of a sense of place. When one walks into a local bank, he or she shouldn’t distrust the banker. The banker doesn’t need to scam the citizen. People will argue that to write “reconnection” amounts to naiveté. I argue it doesn’t. One might want to scam or cheat a neighbor, but this is not a requirement. The municipalities in Carollo case could have received fair deals from the brokers; Barkley’s could have simply represented their LIBOR numbers on the level; the executives at Country Wide could have done business that exacted fair returns; Paterno could have sought justice; bin Laden could have sought other means to his ends; et cetera et cetera, minus mental illness, delusion or whatever other phenomenon get in the way of sensible means to ends. But none of this is what happened, of course, and the pathologies of position are powerful forces.

Reconsidering our language with one another is another step, in addition to the solution proposed by Hayes in terms of coalition building, because this “rebuilding of trust” requires careful reflection on how to talk, write, and otherwise exchange ideas. Unfortunately, at the moment, our political, contract, and other forms of language are almost incoherent and in may ways walled off by ideology and what amounts to king-of-the-hill defensiveness and zero sum world views. In a way, we are ourselves looking for the Higgs boson. It’s somewhere in all that “space out there.”

On Learning Curves, Education, and Creativity

I’ve been troubling over a couple of picking patterns from The Painter and a few items by John Denver, little intricate patterns that are somewhat mind bending.

I also live In West Simsbury, which, in Census parlance, is a CPD (a census designated place) of the town of Simsbury, Connecticut (median income over 100k). We have the good fortune in this town of having a high quality of life. It’s a town loaded with professionals, a high ratio of people with higher education degrees, marvelous trees, and a decent school system.

Today, we attended my son’s Rock Camp concert at Martocchio’s Music, an outfit that runs music lessons year round and offers camps in rock and jazz music. The musicians are all kids of various levels, mostly who take lessons throughout the year, like my son. And they’re all fantastic, from the drummers to the guitar players. They’re also surpassingly creative, belting out tunes and inventing their own within a week. These camps are the result of lots of human commitment.

A few years ago we also attended a musical at the local high school and the performance values pretty much blew me away. I remember having conversations with my wife about this show: “They could take that on the road,” I said, or something pretty close. This was not the tones of a novice at the violin or clarinet.

Now to some conceptual arithmetic. In life across the country, we typically parse out the year by the school schedule. In our incrementalism, we lose sight of the fact that a lost year can never be recovered, no matter what a standardized test may say.

I’ve always wanted to learn to play guitar, but the fact of the matter is that learning difficult things becomes more difficult with age. I noted the degree to which students at Rock Camp have developed their skills early. My own friend at the guitar, Timmons, told me, yes, it’s hard, that’s why you start early.

We often forget in our decision making about school and culture the very lives were dealing with. Watching Moonlight Empire tonight brought back to my mind the often mysterious glances we give to children whom we often neglect in our credits and in our obsession with mass performance data.

Styles of Bad Reporting: CBS and Weird Journalism

Last night we watched a report by CBS news on the ALEC organization. It’s called Who is ALEC? It’s a good example of how not to do a report on an organization that is objectively controversial and that has seen lots of reportage in other news organs, most of it critical, which is the real news.

The first mistake is that the report doesn’t even talk to ALEC. It interviews Chip Rogers, a Senator from Georgia, who’s obviously a supporter of the organization.

We sat down with Rogers this week for an interview on the floor of the Georgia State Senate, where he is Republican majority leader, to find out what ALEC is really about.

This is a title fumble and a bizarre decision by CBS. How would this logic go: Let’s find out who ALEC is, go to Chip Rogers, he’ll know. He’ll give us the “real skinny.” Pardon my snideness, but what were the editorial and production decisions here? If CBS wanted to know about ALEC, they could have gone to the web site and read the About page. Instead, the interview descended to classic propaganda. CBS could have included at least one critic for the purposes of counter point.

In any event, here’s an extract on the question of Who ALEC IS:

“They look at us and say, ‘Hey, here are the legislators that believe in free markets; here are the legislators that believe in limited government,'” Rogers said. “It really is a shame that companies have to continually look over their shoulders to protect themselves from an onerous government.”

ALEC member companies are a Who’s Who of the Fortune 500: tobacco giants Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris) and Reynolds American; telecommunications leaders AT&T and Verizon; energy conglomerates ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Koch Industries; big pharmaceutical firms Bayer and Pfizer; State Farm insurance and United Parcel Service. None of the companies on ALEC’s corporate board would grant us an interview.

What ALEC does for legislators is create model bills mostly on fiscal issues that are templates for 800 to 1,000 bills introduced in the 50 state legislatures every year. ALEC has claimed to members that 20 percent [of] its bills become laws.

All kinds of weird and news worthy conclusions can be drawn from this lift. The Senator: 1) thinks he’s “onerous.” 2) ALEC is his ghost writer 3) ALEC writes 20% of the law. Additionally, consider this quote:

But at least 20 companies cut ties with ALEC this year after it had drifted into non-economic issues such as “stand your ground” self-defense laws and strict photo voter identification laws.

The report never defines what it means by “drifted into” and fails to follow it’s own logic in this quote:

ALEC had no role implementing the stand your ground law in Florida, where teenager Trayvon Martin was allegedly shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who has asserted a “stand your ground” defense. But ALEC did create a similar model bill after Florida’s law.

The report makes no effort to explain the final sentence.

One final note. I think it’s perfectly fine for reporters to ask questions that test a person’s logical points. In this next quote, the interviewer makes no attempt to do this in an illogical response to a question about voter IDs.

“Simply telling the person who is taking your vote who you are is not much of a burden, and at the end of the day, if you’re allowing one person to vote illegally, you’ve just cancelled out my vote,” Rogers said. “It’s really common sense – if you are going to vote, tell us who you are.”

Voter ID was an issue that led Wal-Mart to quit ALEC, telling the group in a letter it had weighed in “on issues that stray from its core mission.” In a statement to CBS News, Wal-Mart mentioned its support of the Voting Rights Act and the company’s efforts to help employees register to vote.

Rogers addressed Wal-Mart’s concern head on: “If I were to go to Wal-Mart, and I were to attempt to buy a bottle a beer, I would assume that Wal-Mart would ask me for identification. If not, they could lose their license to sell that product. I would hope that most Americans cherish the right to vote a little more than they do the right to buy a bottle of beer. So, I think it is a little disingenuous on Wal-Mart’s part in that they’re actively engaged in indentifying people using photo ID to suggest that is a reason they no longer want to be actively engaged with ALEC.”

The Senator is jumping to the conclusion that a voter who has come to the precinct is an illegal voter. On what cause? Where’s the evidence? Voter ID’s aside, the reporter could have asked Senator Rogers why he thinks his analogy is sound, legally and functionally. Maybe everyone could “register to purchase alcohol.” Even I hadn’t thought of that.

CBS should do some serious thinking about editing. This is incompetent.

Patterns on the Subject of the Guitar

I’ve finally have a handle on a few things guitar related. Again, I’ve teaching myself the instrument. The result: I can play a few classical pieces at the level of a third grade Spanish language lesson, like programming a hello world set of commands or a simple calculator with basic operators. I can play the notes but not the music, which is the goal. I also have a handle on some Celtic rhythms and styles, like reels.

The handles are specific to 1) Travis picking and 2) strumming, all of which demand not just the fingering and wristing of patterns but learning to hear them in relation to the body parts.

I’m pressing on the notion of 8 beats per bar as a common grammar. In strumming, certain beats of the eight beat bar are simply silenced, while in Travis picking, the same thing can happen, but syncopated. Over and over and over again until things start to hurt.

The common grammar can explain different styles of music and the role of the instrument in music: in classical guitar and modern rock, the guitar is central, and the player is a “guitar hero.” In strumming, generally speaking, we have the guitar player as “role player.” The classic guitar player as Romantic hero.

On ACA, Theology, and More

I’ve been having interesting conversations via email and FB on the question of the ACA and certain theological questions, ranging from Biblical exegesis all the way to Gould. They’e been fruitful and have jogged many things out of memory.

I’ve just completed my typical readings of the Supreme Court language on the ACA and my reaction, at least at this time, is that Justice Roberts’ and the Scalia lead dissent are somewhat strange. The majority opinion and dissent appear to be talking past each other, though more on the dissent side. The dissent is particularly flavorful in its rejection of Justice’s arguments.

Their’s a chasm in this ruling. Withal, Roberts holds that

it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.

He writes on page 50: “The Federal Government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance.” Earlier above D, he writes:

The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.

This is one of the key logic principles:

Congress’s use of the Taxing Clause to encourage buying something is, by contrast, not new. Tax incentives already promote,for example, purchasing homes and professional educations.
See 26 U. S. C. §§163(h), 25A. Sustaining the mandate as a tax depends only on whether Congress has properly exercised its taxing power to encourage purchasing health insurance, not whether it can. Upholding the individual mandate under the Taxing Clause thus does not recognize any new federal power. It determines that Congress has used an existing one.

I can understand this in terms of renters vs homeowners. But I think this logic misses a finer point: that indeed, people who have health insurance are involved in transactions some of which contribute to those who don’t have it.

Learning by Doing and Other Observations

When I took up the guitar a few years ago, I hardly knew what I was getting into. I’ve since gone through the tips of several pairs of shoes kicking myself for the decision. But I’ve learned a lot about learning over the course of my thousand or so hours of practice.

Because I don’t have the benefit of the typical lessons, I never know if I’m developing bad habits. This may or may not matter. One way of getting around this to to watch lots of YouTube videos. I type in the name of a song and find that the performance bears little resemblance to months and months of my learning the notes. Conclusion: learning the notes is not the same as playing the song.

The relationship between the left and right hand is partially the issue. I’m going after two modes: classical guitar and bluegrass/folk/Celtic. Conclusion 2: while folk uses a picking style, classical mode does not because of the range of polyphony possibilities on the instrument. They’re both totally cool forms, but one can’t play Sor with a pick. The modes here require different forms of math and complement the problem of notes and songs, or, perhaps better, music and copying. One can copy the notes to memory and not really play music. In classical mode, the right hand is playing simultaneous voices to a high degree of approximation. In folk, two guitars are required for this, but this has a lot to do with arrangement and, I would assume, the influence of the fiddle on scoring. I don’t know enough about this to be confident, though. But the violin is defined as monophonic, while the guitar is just as bizarre as a harp.

I struggle with the right hand, to find the proper structure of a song’s texture. These renderings of Stanley Myer’s Cavatina illustrate what I mean. The first is by Peo Kindgren. The second by Ana Vidovic. When I observe each these, I’m looking at the right hand, but not for too long as to become overwhelmed with grief at my own inadequacy. The skill here partially requires some sort of loosening up of the brain over many many years.

In any event, I’ve learned to be patient and to listen. I’ve also come to appreciate even more the significance of process in learning. For some skills, following patterns of developing–and thinking about those patterns–is critical to creative rule breaking. For example, I started to take strumming a little more seriously these past few weeks. Yesterday, I got into strumming for reel patterns and found that this is an interesting way of training the left hand to move faster, while at the same time being more precise about clipping the proper string with the right hand. The finger nails have to pluck the “noted” strings. Once this is done, the player can put some rhythm to work. Time to work on some rhythm.

Process learning. Traditions are important in this regard.

Burroway on Regnerus

Jim Burroway examines a new study soon for publication called The New Family Structures Study. He writes:

But instead, he undertakes a manipulation which I believe represents the fatal flaw of this study. If one wanted to intentionally create Lesbian Mothers and Gay Fathers groups which were least likely to look like an intact biological family, I can’t imagine a better way to do so than to take the steps Regnerus has taken here.