Monday, September 5, 2016

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I was very fortunate to be able to go on a cruise to Alaska this summer. Our first stop was in Juneau. My partner, my son and I went on a "Photo Safari" looking for humpback whales with local guiding company. We had a couple of close encounters with a pod of whales that were awe inspiring. As we headed up the channel on our 30 foot whale watching boat, we saw a group of boats in the distance; a sure sign that whales were feeding in the area. When we arrived we saw several whales in the distance. We could see them spout and surface, but it was hard to make them out clearly. As we were waiting for them to surface, we drifted around not sure of where they would come up next. Our guide told us a good way to tell where they are going to come up was to look at the behaviour of the seabirds. According to our guide when the whales surface to feed, the birds will land and get some of the krill the whales feed on. I looked over to the port side of the boat and noticed a small gathering of birds circling over the water about 100 feet away. Then we heard a noise also off our port side. We turned to see the spray of a whale less than 100 feet away headed straight for the boat. Several others in the pod of whales surfaced as well.  As they passed under the boat, I was fully expecting to get bumped or even flipped over. However, they passed under the boat without any disturbance only to surface on the other side. I took a burst of shots as the humpback came to the surface, flipped his tail fin and went down again and disappeared. 
The guides on our boat identified the whale as 1465. A whale that first appeared in Juneau in 2006 and is a regular participant in a bubble feeding group that hangs out in the ocean around Juneau. The whale is identified by the underside of his tail fin. In the animated gif above you can see the tail fin and pattern of white on the underside.
After this close up look, we left the pod for a little while. Whale tour operators are limited to half an hour of time in the area of whale pods, So we left and went up to look at a group of sea lions hanging out on a nearby island. On our way back, we came across the pod one last time and had another close encounter. As I was videotaping whales off the side of the boat, I was surprised by a whale surfacing quite close to the boat. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life. The shear size of these creatures is truly amazing. They were easily larger than the boat we were on.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer Reading and Viewing Suggestions

Here are a few ideas of how you can keep your TOK brain active over the summer months. Building up your background knowledge by reading, listening and viewing resources like these can only be helpful in preparing you for your essay and presentation in the fall. As you engage with these resources try to draw linkages between them and course concepts, ways of knowing, and areas of knowledge.

TOK related Readings

  • Man is the Measure by Reuben Abel - An introduction to the central problems of Philosophy. Many of the issues discussed so far come up in this book.
  • Sophie's World - recommended by other TOK teachers and I will be reading it this summer. It is an introduction to major issues in philosophy.
  • Books by Steven Pinker, including The Blank Slate, How the Mind Works, The Stuff of Thought and The Language Instinct.
  • The Life of Pi
  • Politics and the English Language, essay by George Orwell

Five TOK related TedTalks

Five TOK related movies

  • 12 Angry Men - reason, emotion, bias
  • Inception - Truth or illusion, how do we know the difference?
  • The Book of Eli - Issues related to faith, memory, emotion and language as ways of knowing.
  • The Final Cut - Issues related to memory and making sense of your personal experience.
  • Mindwalk - Issues related to paradigms, the natural sciences, and systems theory.

Five TOK related podcast channels

  • Radiolab - Season 11 Episode 5 is cool "Are you sure?" and there are lots of others to listen to in this archive.
  • This American life - this link will take you to an archive of past podcasts. Recent episodes have a lot of connections to TOK. Listen to them on your summer walks.
  • CBC - Under the influence and the older Age of persuasion, both with Terry O'Reilly have a great number of podcasts with connections to TOK, particularly emotion, reason, intuition, memory, bias, and propaganda. These series examine the role of advertising in shaping our beliefs and our consumption choices.
  • CBC - Ideas: most of the Ideas podcasts have TOK connections. Some recent podcasts of interest include 
    • Big Data, a multipart examination of privacy, surveillance, other knowledge issues in the digital age. 
    • Catalogues of Culture - Wade Davis, excellent connections to human sciences, indigenous knowledge systems, and cultural perspectives
    • Counting in Colour with Daniel Tammett, connections to sense perception as a way of knowing.
Have a restful summer and see you all at the retreat in the fall. We will have an Amazing time.

P.S. This hammock is reserved for me.

Monday, February 15, 2016

In Science is honesty the best policy?

This article shares some interesting findings about the ethical conduct of scientific researchers and the role played by intuition in interpreting data. It would make for an interesting real-life situation for a presentation.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Chelsea Manning, Art, and Algorithms

This interview with Chelsea Manning raises a number of TOK related issues. It would make a good real life situation for a presentation. To read the article, click here.