Thoughts On Homework

Last night I had do some paperwork for my on-line business; it had to be done, it sucked. It was then that I was thinking about all those hours spent battling homework throughout my life: from grade school, through University, and when I had my little business going before the great melt-down in ’08. Once I completed my accounting and billings, I thought about creating a 3D image of how I felt during all those hours, burning the midnight oil on homework.

When Homework Feels LIke an Interrogation - Jan 10 2016 Weblog Image

Here it is, “The Interrogation Room.”

The human model I created during the holidays, using Blender. The rig for the model is basic, and so is the room and its furniture, but it is, to me, the look and feel of an interrogation room, and that is what I was feeling like last night. A little Tongue-in-cheek statement, using art work, reflecting the moment I was having.

The Born Again Armchair Criminologist

Nothing worse than getting involved in an un-academic argument over issues about crime with the armchair Criminologist. In fact, one of the first warnings I got in my first year in University was, “Criminology is one field that everyone believes they know more about than the expert.” And I can honestly say that my Professor was absolutely right. I hear it at my work, when I am out in public, and among my neighbours–they all have their their tails of victimization, abuse of authority and bulk at why laws are so loose on those who commit crimes.

I was waiting in the check-out at Walmart, when I over heard two women talking about how bad the crime rate is in Langley City. I listen with curiosity, and they were aware of my proximity to them, as I am sure they would have happily allowed me to join them on that topic. While they went through the line-up, and departed on their marry way, I heard another couple, this time behind me, talking about how they just installed their brand new auto security system; to deter would-be thieves from taking their SUV. They talked at length at what they say is a growing problem of vehicle break-ins; so they wanted to protect their investment. On my way to the parking lot, after paying for my groceries, two young teenage boys wearing their hoodies over their heads, riding on B.M.X. bikes, raced through the parking lot at full speed, sparking another conversation, with the people in the parking stall beside me, on youth crime.

Yes, in a very short period of time, about an hour, I heard these three groups of people all talking about crime. I am not surprised though, as this time of year people are more stressed, and more busy than normal, so attitudes change, and priorities too, when being with families and friends over the holidays take precedent. I like to call this, looking through rose coloured glasses, as we tend to see world in this weird tint.

But remember the media, pumping out story after story about crimes, one after another; it is no wonder that more people do not just stay at home with their doors locked and windows bolted shut–now I am being sarcastic. And this is where most get their few bits of data from, the morning newscast before they head out to work. One would think that crime is all around us, in every corner, behind every closed door–it is everywhere–oh no. We all believe we are victims, reciting that one event when a wrong doer wronged us, and we felt that the punishment given was a joke, or the authorities did nothing to catch them, and they got away with it. Everyone has an event to talk about from their past.

The last time I engaged a person on the topic of Criminology, specifically on youth crime, was my former land lord’s wife who was dealing with her grand child’s social and physiological deviance, and I chimed in. The first response to my thoughts were that she should recommend her daughter take her child to a specialist, was, being that I did not have a child of my own, I therefore have no valued knowledge in the field of child rearing–and she said, “Thank you.” In which I replied, “That is like you saying that, becuase I am not a criminal, I do not know anything about criminals? How absurd.” She did not offend me, but I learned a valuable lesson that day, citing that I can bring a horse to water, but I cannot make it drink.

Knowledge is valuable tool to have. It changes us from ignorance, to people of reason. Knowledge is very costly, both in time and access; you generally have to go to an institution that teaches it, where you learn from those who have mastered in it, in order to have gained it in its pure form. Anyone can obtain knowledge, but few do because of its costs, yet in the same vein, the free stuff–well, you get what you pay for.

Success! They Passed!

Success! The three I tutored over the last four weeks have written their finals, and received their marks for the full term. All passed; they seemed very pleased at their accomplishments. The Statistics final exam took them the better part of 90 minutes to complete, well with in the time limit, but they all said it was a tough exam.

Grades Graphic Dec 8 2014 Thomasso 01 Weblog Image

It was impossible, from their past performance, to reach stellar marks, but the deal was to get them passed within the time remaining in their course. Statistically, this was possible, and they achieved that goal. Their marks varied from a letter grade of C+ to B-, which are academic passes, a far cry from their projected C- to C grades that they were aligned with from before.

I am happy for them, and I wish them well as they take their winter breaks.

As for future tutoring gigs, well, that is hard to say at the moment. I did put in a huge amount of energy and time with them, and sacrifices were made on my part. Their prof at SFU has not gotten back to me since he requested my reference letters, so I guess he has moved on. So, it is hard to say whether this will lead into something. In the mean time I am happy that my students passed. Success!

Further Readings, see Post “Me, Tutoring Behavioural Statistics? Gasp!” November 22, 2014

Me, Tutoring Behavioural Statistics? Gasp!

If I was sitting at my desk ten years ago thinking that in 2014 I would be tutoring a third year undergrad student in Behavioural Sciences Statistics, I would have said that I was nuts, out of my mind, just plain crazy–off my rocker. Well, I was asked to do just that, tutor a student who is desperate to pass his course today. He asked anyone out there who could help him out with his course work, with the lure of money per hour–to boot. With so little time in his semester left, and his current grade of less than a passing mark, the pressure was great. But I surprised myself, and luckily for the student, his last exam on “Analyses of Variance” with the focus on the computational aspects of working the data rather than focusing on definitions, paid off with a whopping 93 percent mark! So with just a few weeks left, the challenge is to pull off an academic passing mark for him in his Stats class during the finals.

Stats Page from Testbook - Nov 25 2014 Weblog Image

Okay, Stats is not for everyone, and if you want pass and graduate in just about any academic study, you need Statistics. I remember how hard it was for me when I first sat in a first year Statistics course–my eyes glazed over, my head was spinning, and at the end of each class I felt that I wanted to throw myself out a window, even if it was on the ground floor. I Kept at it, working though the problems, memorizing the new language, and dealing with Maths at a higher than normal level than what I was used to. By the time I was in my Forth Year, I had Stats under my belt–my grade for that class was a cool “A+.”  I actually started liking it, using it, even today I post stuff on forums that requires me to turn raw data into pretty drawings (graphs) and columns of numbers (descriptive passages) so everyone can understand my argument.

The trials of tutoring Statistics in this case had two issues that I had to overcome. First, was answering a letter from the Student’s instructor that I was capable, and qualified to teach Statistics. I guess when the call came asking for anyone who would tutor Statistics, there were not that many takers. And I understood the vetting process becuase there are rumours of unqualified tutors who took students’ money and taught next to nothing throughout the years. I passed the vetting process, and was given flying recommendations! Second, whether I was up to challenge to actually teach it becuase it has been a while since I last stepped into a Statistics classroom, and that kept haunting me until I started the lessons. I guess it is different when you went through the courses and survived, but I still have this “I’m still a student” complex that keeps me from standing up and say “I am a Statistician!” Yikes, even just now that sent shivers up my spine. LOL

I blew off the dust from off of my textbooks, and got a loaner-copy of the Student’s textbook so that I could re-acquaint myself with the course material–going over it whenever, wherever I could before I started the tutoring. Surprisingly most of it came back. Actually, it came flooding back to me, like a Star-Trek rerun. I was surprised at how much of it I retained.

We have had two sessions now, done over VOIP, and although he paid for only an hour on each session, I spent over three hours on the first day with him, and two on the last lesson. I felt it was necessary to go back to the basics and start from the beginning, understanding the whole concept of “Variance” in inferential statistics, and then going through the Maths manually with him until he got it. Yes, there was an Algebra lesson that took most of our time together on the first night. I remember the point when the “light bulb” went off. That “Eureka” moment.

We agreed to have three more sessions until he writes his final, which is just in a few weeks. Not much time to whip a mule into a racehorse, but I believe, and so does he, his last mark is a good indicator. Oh, the joys of being a student.

A Tribute to a Friend and Teacher: RIP Mr. Allen

A tribute to a man who played a pivotal part in my academic endeavours; may you rest in peace Tom Allen, your life was taken way too soon. He was a teacher, a mentor and a very kind person who gave more than he took. He cared deeply, and passionately, about restorative justice, and he cared deeply about those who were caught in the web of the criminal justice system. As a teacher of Criminology at Kawntlen Polytechnic University, he toughed many, and touched our lives in his classes. I will never forget my time in his classes, and the knowledge and wisdom he passed onto me. After almost a year of fighting leukaemia, he passed away on August 28, 2014.

I wanted to blog about him becuase he was one of the few people who impacted my life in a very positive way while I was an undergrad. He took me aside one day while I was in my third year, to ask me how I was doing after I had written and submitted a paper which I had blasted through becuase of lack of time from my busy schedule. He want to help me, so he reached out. I remember him taking me into the staff lunch room, where it was dimly lit, but very clean and well maintained, and I was thinking that I should not be here. He sat me there and took out my paper out from his bag and said that he could not mark it becuase he knew that I could have done ten times better as compared to my previous papers written earlier on in his class. I explained to him that with work, and other assignments that my time was stretched to the limit, and rather receiving a zero for that assignment, I would “throw a hail Marry” and write the paper that morning. He said, “No, you are going to rewrite it, as I am going to give everyone in the class a second chance because you are not the only one, …but for you, this is out of character.” I did rewrite the paper, as did everyone else in the class, and my mark was substantially grater than before.

My last encounter with him was at my graduation. As I walked across the stage to receive my BA, and greet the Dean, plus the photo op., and just as I walked off the stage, Tom, and one other Prof stood up from their chairs and walked over me. While on stage, they came over to me and shook my hand saying, “well done–you did it!” They were smiling and their faces glowed with excitement. When I sat down, all the graduates around me were asking what that was all about. They said the Dean stopped and paused, looking at what was going at the back of the stage while I was up there. I just told them that I got the true hand shake from my profs.

I first heard of the news on Twitter back on Tuesday from a current student who said that the university emailed everyone of the news, so I emailed the Faculty of Criminology at KPU. The secretary replied, and she gave me a copy of the email. It reads:

Dear Criminology Students,

I’m very sorry to be writing this email and it comes with immeasurable sadness and grief.  Our friend, colleague and teacher, Tom Allen, died on August 28th, 2014.  Tom was diagnosed with Leukemia nine months ago.  Tom didn’t want a lot of pain or to suffer and that was what he was facing.  He’s now at peace.  He spent his last days surrounded by colleagues, friends, and family. 

Tom was KPU Criminology’s social justice heart and soul.  He was one of the most vulnerable/courageous and authentic human beings I had the pleasure of knowing.  I also know that Tom loved teaching.  He cherished connecting with students and challenging and transforming their perspectives.  Tom was deeply compassionate and strived to make the world a better place through his students.  He was going to retire a few years ago, but always returned because he loved teaching and the relationships he formed with students.  Over the years, many students told me that they stayed at KPU because of Tom.  His irreverence, humour, passion for social and transformative justice and ability to connect with everyone in a heartfelt way will be deeply missed by students and faculty alike.  

Tom was resilient.  He would want all of you to go into class this week, connect and engage empathetically with each other and the material and breathe life into your journeys.  And tell ‘Tom stories’…there are lots of them. Please also reach out to each other, and to the members of our faculty. 

A celebration of life is being planned and I will relay the information as soon as I have it.  


Lisa Kitt

Tom lead by example, and taught by conviction, sharing his life with us in those classes. He reminded us that we are human, and that through our humanity we can have a society that is caring and tolerant, but above all else, having equality and understanding as its foundation. I will never forget him, and a part of him will always be with me.


Good Old Common Sense Versus the Raw Data

I seem to be getting old, as I am starting to sound like my university professor who first started lecturing me on Statistics 101 way back in the not so distant past. O.Kay, Stats is not for everyone, but the effects from statistics is around us, and will never die out as long as mankind keeps seeking answers to questions that only Maths can answer. This post is about an experience I just had with a co-worker who was dismayed at an article that was written in the March 2014 edition of the “British Columbia Business Magazine,” and how he said that any statistic should (must) be taken with full scepticisms becuase “no one can predict the future, and no one can tell you what the “facts” are without common-sense.” Awe, yes, common-sense versus the science of Mathematics, or in this case, raw data versus one person’s own idiology (idiot + ideology) of what the answer ought to be.

My Normal Curve Worksheet Aug 2014 Weblog Image

There was a survey done asking what people in the business world thought of the current state of the British Columbia’s economy, and whether or not the future looked bright for them. Of course, like all news media generated articles that are not peer reviewed, there was no way knowing for sure exactly if the facts were indeed genuine, other than the author has credentials from the University of British Colombia, but that was it–a person, written in the third person, past tense, with some high authority and super powers above the common folk. So, even for me, it is hard to accept the facts from this article, only becuase the author did not cite the source from which he got his data from, and he added no basic information such as the size of his sample group, who they were, and what types of questions were asked, and so one. All we know is that one out of three people in the business world thinks that our economy is far from reaching growth that is needed for hiring more employees. So, even I could not defend the article–but I can defend the use of statistics.

When I explained to my friend that what is being measured when “crunching the numbers” is the “variance” of the sample group from the average score(s), (I could see the glaze coating his eyes), not averages, he thought that was just stupid. Since most questions are set up with a multiple score answers, the data becomes very complex, and spread sheets become your best friend. But in general terms, when measuring populations sample groups, you want to use variance as your measuring stick, not how many said “yes” to a question.  If the whole world operated with just binary answers, then there would be no need for Statistics–right?

To assume that your common-sense is going to give you the correct answers all of the time is the same reason why for many years continental Europe thought that the Earth was flat during the dark ages. It is not enough just to look around you and gauge what you think people are saying, you really need to spread out and somehow ask as many people as you can, and collect data. Common-sense is just that, what first jumps out at you based with what your own beliefs/expectations are, and what is seen with your own eyes standing in one spot–as we all know we can be easily tricked by illusions. So we use science to cut through the B.S., and help clear the smoke, and see through the mirrors, for us to better understand what it is we are measuring. But, Maths and its use in Statistics is not for everyone, so the best we can do is spell out the findings in descriptive terms, adding as much of the raw data as possible, and also allowing anyone to crunch the numbers for themselves and challenge the findings to either agree, or disagree, in the academic arena. Wait, that is what is meant by “peer reviewed.”

Thank you Dr. Frok (UBC & Kwantlen Polytechnic University) for teaching me the art of Statistics.

A Much Needed Update: The Week in Review

In this post I will be highlighting the week in review since I have been so busy and not having the time to post throughout most of it. Even though this was only a four day week, a lot had happened, and so many changes are now taking place due to the events that have taken place. First, the employment front is ever changing. There have been some significant changes as I struggle to deal with Canada’s ever crumbling economy. Secondly, I will be resigning myself from the volunteer work that I do with Corrections Canada and Kwantlen Polytechnic University as the demand on my time has now exceeded what I can give. Next, my photography is starting to exceed into and wonderful opportunities, so some special events will be coming up that I have been invited to participate in. Lastly, changes to my contracting gig has also taken on changes that reflect the poor state that Canada is in as far as the economy goes.

Since three weeks ago, I have been largely looking into prospects of new employment, or more specific, finding employers who are hiring that are also healthy in terms of their financial status and economic viability.  I know this sounds weird, but the majority of corporations in British Columbia seem to be in a lot of money hardship, and their outlook seems to be on either the brink of bankruptcy or experiencing some form of production loss at fifty percent or more. Weeding those perspective employers out is a very difficult task as the data on researching them is very limited, but I have found ways to do it. Most employers are either in a hiring freeze, or contracts are starting to become more ridged and their offerings more tightened. As I am finding out, being big does not mean the best any more. In fact, most of the promising businesses that I see right now are the medium size ones that are between 1000 to 500 employees.

Over the last two weeks I had three very promising leads, but two of them were lost causes as those employers admitted to me, through follow up calls, that they were unsure whether they could take on new hires or not. They seemed they just wanted their options open in case they needed the added labour. The final lead that I have right now is still in the vetting process. I doubt I will know more until the end of the month.

I formally resigned myself from my volunteer work that I was doing with Corrections Canada through my Universality. The main reason for this is lack of time that I can offer. There is a symbolic reason too, which sort of points to Corrections Canada’s new policies on how volunteer programs are managed and maintained. Without going into the specifics, I just decided to take a step back from it, but I may consider reinstating myself later on down the road. I should also say that I am among seven other collogues who also resigned as well this last week, many of them came from Simon Fraser University, and some from the University of the Fraser Valley, and University of British Columbia.

I am getting more photography gigs! Most of these are not paying ones, more or less helping models out break into to their careers, but I will be doing some portrait work for a family who would like a series of prints for their home. I prefer the studio work over the candid outdoor shots, so getting an offer to shoot in my studio is something that I always look forward to.

As I said before in this post, the Canadian economy is getting worse by the day. This is reflecting my current contracting work that I am doing right now. As of last week I have not received any new calls on the job board. I know this has more to do with the company that I contract for than it does with the economy in general. The rumour mill is ripe with chatter that the company is headed towards bankruptcy–as I predicted. I was warned about this several weeks ago, but finding new contracts since then has yielded only a couple of leads. Now I am in full-on search mode, and may even consider going back to an hourly position. Yes, the state that Canada is in right now is down right scary! But on the bright side, things are looking up.

Sheep You Can’t Count On

Already these two sheep that my landlord got have been a source of many laughs, and photo opportunities. The latest observation has been the charging up to the gate, calling out as loud as they can, whenever someone enters the driveway with their vehicles. The sheep are better than my security system for letting me know when someone has arrived!

Black Sheep Making a Deal - Weblog Image - May 16 2014

However, they do not always run to the top of the field over to the gate when someone drives onto the driveway. Today I had Bible-Pushers drive in, and I noticed the sheep just sat at their favourite spot, while the boys in suites continued to walk up to my door. So the sheep are not 100 percent dependable–yet. Perhaps they can tell the difference between the landlord and other people?

Taking a page from Psychology 101, Mr. Ivan Pavlov who observed what he called Classical Conditioning, or Behaviorism when you have stimulus from around effecting the naturally occurring stimulus of the subject. In this case, the sheep are hungry all the time (natural stimulus), and the landlord bringing food is the environmental stimulus, so the learned behaviour is the sheep running up to the gate to greet the landlord for the yummy treats ( Psychology, 2014).

Maybe i will need to get the landlord to dress-up in his business suite the next time he feeds the sheep?

When People Wave Hello and Goodbye

A wise man once said that the only difference between waving hello, or goodbye, is the direction that each person is travelling from one another. I was around ten years old when I first started noticing that people, in and around where I grew up, greeted each other more or less the same way when they were meeting, or departing from each other. From first contact, there was this wave of the hand. And the same thing happened when people were leaving from the gathering. For example, people that I observed would wave back to each other, usually after they said their goodbyes, they would wave through the car window when gazing their final look before departure in their cars. When I was taking a second year Psych course in University, on human behaviour, this was explained to me through theories that tried to explain this behaviour’s origin.

The GOODBYE Girl Weblog Image April 8 2014

For us humans, acknowledging friends and familiar people are important. Whether a form of respect, or to the level of affection towards two people, waving is almost a universal greeting. This is a strong gesture, and one that has strong emotional ties.

Back in 2009, me and a bunch of undergraduates students were setting up our own Psych experiment as part of the course, copying an experiment done in 2005 where a researcher would sit on a bench, and would wave to random people across a busy street. We changed it up a bit by putting a Female researcher as the waver first, then switching to a Male researcher after a total of thirty waves were done. Two researchers would count the number of people who would wave back, and another would observe from the same side of the street that the subjects were on to record their reactions and facial expressions.

Sadly I do not have the results from my group’s assignment–they are lost somewhere. But I do remember that both the Male and Female wavers were almost identical in as far as receiving positive feedback from the subjects in the street experiment.

Still, to this day, I marvel at the complex behaviour of greetings through the gesture of waving we humans do. After nine years since taking that Psych course, I still remember lessons from forensic psychology, studying human behaviour. Waving is a powerful tool in first contact, so use it wisely.

The Winding Road of North Abbotsford, BC

I ventured out through North Abbotsford today, on my home from Mission, BC, after a meet up with some friends at a Criminology seminar (co-opp through Correction Canada). It was a great day, lots of Sun, clear skies, and almost no traffic travelling through the back roads along the Fraser River. When I got to River Road, I stopped off at Duncan Bar, the most Easterly section of the Metro Vancouver parks in Glen Valley to take in the pre-spring day, and do a little shooting.

Winding Road in Abbotsford BC March 17 2014 Weblog Image

This shot is the start of Bradner Road, looking South from River Road, just past the railway tracks.

When I arrived at Duncan Bar, I noticed a black Ferrari fowling me. I was thinking this guy must be nuts taking a car, with such a low profile, through these backs roads, but if you got money, then repairing the car will not be that much of big deal. Of all the types of vehicles to see around there?

Fraser River March 17 2014 Weblog Image

I could not resist the wide angle shots with my 16-50mm lens. I am shooting towards Silvermere Lake in this shot, just on the other side of the river, and that is Crescent Island just to the left along the horizon.

If you like old cars, just behind me, along the River in this shot, are thousands of old cars buried in ground. I guess they were put there a filler when they made the road, and levy to prevent washouts from the annual floods that happen during the early summer months. There are some spots that are exposed and you can see pieces of grill, and doorhandles, and rusted out fenders from cars probably dating back to the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.