Brexit: not just a story

Date:     15 July 16

By:         Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,

2252 Joyce St., Burlington, ON Canada  L78R 2B5    905 634 9538

For:       Editor, The Spec, Hamilton

Re:        Brexit: not just a story …. today’s Spec

Dear Editor;

Columnist Hunter identifies Britain’s deeply rooted island psche as being the source of her global reach and strength.  Perhaps.  But we might well consider an even more vital wellspring for these powers.

In a closed-door meeting of a certain think tank, we discussed the ground-breaking book by Hernando De Soto, Why capitalism succeeds in the West.  I asked the speaker, a prominent and respected politician who is neither Jewish nor a professing Christian, to put his finger, if he could, on one single socio-economic factor without which that success would not have been possible.  Without a moment’s hesitation he responded, “The Judaeo-Christian ethic.”

With due respect to other beliefs, we must think carefully about the politician’s instant and unqualified response.

The British globalized before globalization.  From Hudson’s Bay to Tasmania, Britain established missions, hospitals, and schools that were needed for the spiritual and material good of far-flung people.  Her traders established a network of land and sea routes that enabled free trade before there was free trade.

Britain covered the globe with English, a  flexible, graceful, cultured language that welcomes contributions from other languages, Sanskrit to Swahili.  It is linguistic free trade, in which is written the Magna Carta, one of the mightiest documents ever to issue from the minds of men.

Of course, as Ms. Hunter says, Britain at times also brought brutality, theft, exploitation and slavery.  But  in every society there are evil men in all professions from shoemaking to the priesthood; and when based on Judaeo-Christian ethics, that society can ultimately get rid of them as we did slavery (yes, Canada had slavery).  Read the papers: you will find that societies not based on Judaeo-Christian ethics or its equal are drowning in – guess-what? – brutality, theft, exploitation and slavery.

As a child, attending a church school, I started my day with the principal leading us in ten minutes of Bible reading and prayer.  He stood under a vast world map that stretched from corner to corner on the wall above his head: it was, of course, extravagantly pink everywhere, to illustrate the truth of its caption; “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”  I can feel still today the security, warmth, and comfort that crept in as I understood that I and my country were parts of such an Empire.  Help, Britain, help!  Where are you when we need you?


Free speech

Date:          26 June, 16
By:              Frank Gue,
                   B.Sc. (Engineering, U of A, ’51), MBA, P.Eng.
For:             Dr. David Turpin, President,
                   University of Alberta,
                   116th St. & 85 Ave.
                   Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3
Re:             Free speech
Dear Dr. Turpin:
On a certain website, I find a long article headlined:
Student group takes University of Alberta to court over $17,500 “security fee” demanded in order to express views on campus 
If this article is accurate, I find it deeply disturbing.  As reported, it is a direct attack on free speech.
You may know that the world-renowned economist Hernando de Soto, in a book The mystery of capitalism, identifies free speech and private property rights as the two foundation stones of successful democracies.  The case for this is difficult to dispute.
I have today mailed a check for $1,000 to the organization opposing in court the University and its Students Union in this unpleasantly surprising and profoundly disappointing action.
Other related actions will be considered as events unfold in the immediate future, as in my discussions with Mr. Morrel Wax, Regional Director, Office of Individual Giving of the UofA, who visited me again last Monday.
Yours truly,
Frank Gue.

IT System design

Date:       24 June 16
By:           Frank Gue, B.Sc. MBA, P.Eng, Professional Engineer
                Burlington, ON, Canada L7R 2B5
For:          Editors, The Economist, London U (I hope) K
Re:           “Risks and rewards”, June 18, page 29

Dear Editors

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall, system developers demonstrated a sense of responsibility to their users by providing manuals explaining how to use their systems.  In one of the best of these manuals, on System Design. on Page 1, Chapter 1, the first instruction was, “Turn off the computer”.
This wise instruction highlighted the existence of two vastly different processes, the first of which is ignored routinely by most, if not all, IT writings since then, including your article, viz: system design and programming.
Your article repeatedly refers to “programming” and “coders”.  The ancient manual I refer to dealt first with the design of the system, an essential preliminary usually mistaken for, confused with, and left half-undone in the process of, coding and programming.  In its purest form, system design needs boolean logic etc. but needs no coding knowledge whatever.
As a result users are left  having to cope with systems which, clearly, were not thought out nor tested to see whether they actually did what they were supposed to do.   A classic example was a certain month-end statement that demonstrated that:
*  the programmer hadn’t the vaguest idea of double entry bookkeeping, e.g. it showed a sum at the bottom of a column containing no entries;
*  it required the user to do a hand-computation, using what he hoped and assumed were the correct numbers from the statement, to get the answer he needed (it didn’t);
*  the user could not learn nor compute from the computer-produced figures what his cumulative pre-authorized payments were;
*  the programmed logic was incorrect, and the company involved owed him $742 in accumulated prepaid fees, not shown on the statement.  He was able to learn this by calling the customer service number and having a human being do the required computation while the computer sat idle.
This, though it was a particularly glaring error, is not unusual.  Blundering misuse of coding without proper system design is quite common.  Arguably it is one component of our puzzlingly slow recovery from 2008 and one or two other disastersbecause it cost the user several no-value-added hours away from productive work.  The world is simply plugged with rotten software of this kind that has resulted from plunging into coding without having done proper system design involving logical menus and logical processes.  Yes, with paper and pencil!
– 30 –

“Teacher voice is set to mute”

Date:        2 May 16
By:            Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.
                 Burlington, ON     905 634 9538
For:           Letters The Spec
Re:            “Teacher voice is set to mute”,  today’s Spec
                  215 words


Dear Editor:
Writer Ken Durkacz  (“Teacher voice is set to mute”,  today’s Spec.)
is spot-on when he blames the “Inquiry” (or “discovery” or “con-
structivist”) teaching method for Ontario’s worsening math scores.
The disastrous so-called “Progressive” education system, of which
“Constructivism” is a key element, began in the 19th century and was
installed in Ontario beginning about 1967, nearly 30 years before
Mike Harris.
There is an increasing trickle of Letters to the Editor blaming Ontario’s
curricula for our poor math (and other) results.  Clearly, Ontario’s
parents, employers, and University presidents are increasingly
identifying the right villain in this sad melodrama.
The failure of Constructivism as a teaching tool is dramatically illustrated
when one encounters retail sales people who cannot confidently add
up a handful of change, never mind do any mental arithmetic with the
Writer Durkacz is correct when he comments that “You need to
clearly grasp basic tools (such as the times table) in order to do more
sophisticated work”; but the “discovery” method gives the struggling 10-year-
old, who may well be in tears of frustration, only a ladder with the  bottom five
rungs missing.  It must have been devised by educators who were told to
create a model guaranteed to teach children (and their mystified parents)
to hate math.
– 30 –

Don’t stop believing (in structural reform and austerity)

From:            Gue Frank []
Sent:              Tuesday, April 19, 2016 3:01 PM
Subject:         Don’t stop believing (in structural reform and austerity), Apr. 9


Dear Editors:


Most would agree that properly directed stimulus and

properly directed austerity are both good things.

Then why is there a “debate” between them?


It’s because many – perhaps most – politicians don’t

understand “properly directed” .


Example:  Expenditure is mistaken for stimulus,

which must be directed toward productive ends.

What is sometimes called “stimulus” is often

merely a process of scattering currency to the

winds.  Any “stimulating” government must ask the

question:   What improved tooling, process, or

product can be financed with my “stimulus”?


There is a direct link from this question to the

current handwringing over the steadily falling

numeracy in the Western economies.  Many

politicians now in high office were victims of

so-called “Progressive” education.   Starting

in the 60s, this has turned out grown adults

some of whom cannot even count, much less

do arithmetic, less yet understand discounted

cash flow and similar analyses that tell a private

firm whether some project is productive or not.


Modern education systems like “Discovery”

math actually train students to become

innumerate and to hate math.  When this

can be corrected, the debate between

“stimulus” and “austerity” will vanish.



“wildly inaccurate health care apps”

Date:              17 April 16
By:                 Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,
                      Burlington 905 634 9538
For:                Editors, Macleans
Re:                 “Wait, there’s not an app … “ Apr. 18

Dear Eds:

This problem of “wildly inaccurate” health care apps is the tip of
an iceberg.  Information found on the Web ranges from life-
threateningly wrong to life-savingly helpful.
The in-flight stability of an aircraft is explained by someone listing
himself as an Engineering PhD.  His information is simply wrong.
Anyone home-building an aircraft using his information could
kill himself in it.
On the other hand, information from the Mayo Clinic was used
by a layman to diagnose, months before the doctors did, a
case of bladder cancer which is said to be “relatively easy to
treat if caught early.”
Thus a user of the Web must understand that information there
can be dangerous and must be used with good judgment and
much patience, cross-checking, and re-checking before it
is used for any important purpose.
Frank Gue

More Math instruction for Ontario

April 10, 2016


(Media, April, 2016)

It is utterly beyond me why good people will obstinately stick to bad teaching.  “Discovery” and “Constructivism” models have been discredited thoroughly for decades (try Googling Sweller and  Clark, which is perhaps the best of many “discovery” debunks).  To say as some do that it’s a people problem is a copout and escape mechanism.

“Get out a calculator” is simply horrible advice.  It ignores the important problem (what is the question you are trying to solve?) and concentrates on the relatively trivial problem of solving it (use a calculator).  The wise advice from a textbook on computer system design applies fully here when it says on p. 1, paragraph 1, “Step 1: Turn off the computer.”

Two tidbits from my experience:

1.  A student of mine showed me his answer to a physics problem in which he had not known the difference between a comma (a separator) and a dot (a decimal point), and had gotten the wrong result.  He had no “number sense”, which comes with practicing arithmetic problems and estimating results.

2.  A 10-year-old girl I was trying to help with her homework on which she had wasted an hour without results burst into tears when she couldn’t remember the “next step” in the stupid finger-multiplying method she had been taught. SHE WAS BEING DELIBERATELY TAUGHT TO HATE MATH!

Frank Gue, Burlington ON