Monday, August 31, 2009
The DailyKos has a nice set of quotes on Cheney's latest Gollumesque appearance, including this little gem.
And finally on the Cheney front, Steve Benen has this on the torture worked because it kept American safe canard:
I seem to recall the Bush/Cheney era a little differently. Cheney thinks it was a sterling success when it came to national security and counter-terrorism. Perhaps there's something to this. After all, except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks against Americans, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush's inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush's international unpopularity, the Bush/Cheney record on counter-terrorism was awesome.
After the previous administration established a record like that, President Obama didn't ask Cheney for tips? The nerve.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Odd dreams this week: forced to return to high school to make up a math class I'd somehow missed. Fighting with possessed minister plaguing my hospitalized mother.
My other website is misbehaving, like a souffle that just won't rise properly.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Martín uses his method to determine how much information the brain can process during lexical decision tasks. The answer? No more than about 60 bits per second. Of course, this is not the information-processing capacity of the entire brain but one measure of the input/output capacity during a specific task.
Martín goes on to analyze the data from various types of reaction-time experiments, in particular to determine whether information-processing speed is constant during a particular task, as implied by Hick's Law. Martín reckons it isn't.
"This finding suggests an adaptive system where the processing load is dynamically adjusted to the task demands," he says. That makes sense. It seems crazy to assume that the brain carries on processing data at the same rate regardless of the complexity of the task at hand.
But this has an important implication: that the linearity of Hick's Law doesn't always apply. So Hick's Law will need some kind of modification to cope with this nonlinearity.
Just how to rewrite one of the basic laws of behavioral psychology isn't clear yet. But it's sure to involve a very different way of looking at the brain from when it was formulated.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Also interesting material for further reading, Sornette proposes the term "dragon-king" (pdf) for a meaningful outlier that represents a bifurcation or phase change resulting from self-organizational characteristics of open, complex systems, and relates these to the Black Swan concept. Elsewhere, John Robb notes the connection to Ilya Prigogine's Dissipative Structures.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
A number of journalists appear to be comfortable with this technique, and with the information one gets when one uses it. They seem to believe it's a technique best suited for dirty hippies with an axe to grind.
Glen Greenwald has more.
(via Brad Delong)
To still the unbidden apprehensions that might interfere with her dive -- what she describes as "the subjective feeling of empty lungs at the deep" -- Molchanova uses a technique that she refers to as "attention deconcentration." ("They get it from the military," Ericson said.) Molchanova told me, "It means distribution of the whole field of attention -- you try to feel everything simultaneously. This condition creates an empty consciousness, so the bad thoughts don't exist."(quote transcription via kottke).
"Is it difficult to learn?"
"Yes, it's difficult. I teach it in my university. It's a technique from ancient warriors -- it was used by samurai -- but it was developed by a Russian scientist, Oleg Bakhtiyarov, as a psychological-state-management technique for people sho do very monotonous jobs."
I asked if it was like meditation.
"To some degree, except meditation means you're completely free, but if you're in the sea at depth you will have to be focussed, or it will get bad. What you do to start learning is you focus on the edges, not the center of things, as if you were looking at a screen. Basically, all the time I am diving, I have an empty consciousness. I have a kind of melody going through my mind that keeps me going, but otherwise I am completely not in my mind."
Note that this technique is distinct from common one-pointed meditational techniques, such as concentration on mantras or a visual focus like a candle flame, where the proximate goal is to decrease the frequency of distracting phenomena.
There is a greater similarity to the Yoga Nidra techniques. Yoga Nidra attempts to overlay a deep state of relaxation modeled on Stage 4 (abyssal, dreamless, delta wave) sleep on top of an alert consciousness. The method used to accomplish this is remarkably similar to the deconcentration techniques.
In the version I was taught, the first stage is to rapidly switch among three or more sets of auditory stimuli (e.g., soft music playing in the room, noise from within the building and noise from the street outside) without clinging to any one or paying attention to loud sounds over soft, or harmonious sounds over dissonance.
The second stage involves rotating one's somatic attention to different parts of the body: each toe in turn, all the toes together, the top of the foot, sole of the foot, ankle, shin, calf, knee...up to the head and then to the body as a whole. Eventually, one is able to freely expand and contract one's attention throughout the somatosensory field.
Visual field methods typically involve either a sequence of guided meditation techniques, or a simple intent to attend to the entire visual field by "stepping back" from it, as if looking out through a window or looking at a screen, allowing the image to move or change without attaching or following any changes that may occur.
Molchanova's ability to maintain dispersed perceptual attention in the face of high physiological stress is remarkable. In contrast, think of descriptions of police or soldiers experiencing "tunnel vision" at the outset of a firefight; tempering this adrenaline-mediated response enables better performance and greater stamina. The deconcentration technique is easy to practice, but difficult to maintain under stress conditions like a deep dive or a fight.
I'm also reminded of a friend of mine who recommended tight focus on the source of pain as a technique during torture. Most people, he said, will try to focus elsewhere, but what you really want to do is experience the pain as comprehensively as possible, to the point where you simply pass out. Being resistant to pain actually makes you a better subject for torture, and more likely to break than someone who is very sensitive.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Note the people who do not make such a statement. Consider discounting their future predictions strongly.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Spolsky gives the excellent example of server downtime in comparison to airplane crashes:
Measuring the number of minutes of downtime per year does not predict the number of minutes of downtime you'll have the next year. It reminds me of commercial aviation today: the NTSB has done such a great job of eliminating all the common causes of crashes that nowadays, each commercial crash they investigate seems to be a crazy, one-off, black-swan outlier.As time goes on, an increasing proportion of problems derive from rare events. The high-frequency events at the hump of the frequency distribution get "swept out", along with any early occurring rare problems from the tails. This frees up attention for the truly bizarre and unforseeable events. Note that this doesn't work well if your Black Swans are catastrophic. If you get hit by a civilization ending asteroid or a spontaneously business-ending event, you have little opportunity (or benefit) to learning from experience, but this kind of problem is thankfully extremely rare in our collective prior history.
Here's my secret: take any ripe fruit in season, whizz it up, add an element of sweetness, another of mystery (Tarragon? Cardamom? Try not to gild the lily), pour into molds, and freeze. Don't forget the popsicle stick, eh?
Monday, August 17, 2009
I think most liberals would probably prefer a single payer system, honestly. But ultimately, if the president decides that he’s going to go with a reform effort that doesn’t include a public option, what he will have done is spent a ton of political capital, riled up an incredibly angry right wing base who’s been told that this is a plot to kill grandma, grandma, and he will have achieved something that doesn’t change health care very much and that doesn’t save us very much money and won’t do very much for the American people. It’s not a very good thing to spend a lot of political capital on.
They should have her on every week. She fights smart, and she fights like it matters.
Now, I know that Obama's thing is that he's Mr. Cool and everything, but I need him to show what he wants. I want an honest to God visceral response out of him, not just a vague "it would be nice to have this or that".
I want him to show that he understands the stakes in the game, for himself and everyone else, and I want him to fight that hard to win. Dare the Republicans to vote against the bill. Say, "vote against it if you don't care about your constituents. If you love the insurance money more than people, vote against it. If you're ready to abdicate your role as a leader, vote against it. If you're ready to see the deficit eat up our future, vote against it. If you hate Medicare, vote against it."
That's how you fight, and that's how you win.
Related: Paul Krugman on the public option as a signal of Obama's commitment to the progressive agenda.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
|Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|MBA Ethics Oath|
The Daily Show mocks a bunch of Harvard & MIT MBA's for refusing to sign an ethics oath that's being passed around.
Frankly, I'm with the Quakers on this one. Either my word is good, and there's no need for an oath, or my word is bad, in which case any oath I sign is worthless. Just ask your questions and then figure out whether you believe my answers. There are no shortcuts to trust.
It was right there in the contract: Some hedge fund managers are suing a man who they gave $4.2 million to build "an integrated global community of trading partners." Apparently the hedgies thought the phrase was biz jargon, but the money actually went to build a swingers ranch.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
There doesn't seem to be an expiration date on this "feature", so it's not even 5 for fighting. What a nuisance.
an example of cognitive bias in which "...people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it". They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average. This leads to a perverse result where people with less competence will rate their ability more highly than people with relatively more competence. It also explains why competence may weaken the projection of confidence because competent individuals falsely assume others are of equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."
In other words, people who can't get it think they actually get it better than everone else and people who do get it think everyone else can too. It is the affliction of those whose arguments have been completely destroyed and are left with no evidence, and yet think they won the debate anyway - like the birthers. It is also why the smart ones don't understand the failure to communicate and keep pressing. If this theory sounds overly simplistic or arrogant, it's worth pointing out that it's based on a study by two Cornell professors called "Unskilled and Unaware of it." It certainly explains a lot about the national discourse.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Some trial lawyers attempt to channel "The Art of War." Or lessons from the life of Genghis Khan. But the Tao of Ferris has its own wisdom. Hughes had Ferris talk directly to the camera. To us. He says, deal with your fear. Believe in yourself. Make sick days count. And: Do you realize that if we played by the rules, right now we'd be in gym?
In my service as a federal prosecutor and as a defense attorney, one key lesson from Ferris is his repeated message to his despondent buddy Cameron. Your current situation doesn't have to be your fate. There's always another way.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
the story of [Newton's] apple is almost certainly false; Voltaire probably made it up. Even if Newton started thinking about gravity in 1666, it took him years of painstaking work before he understood it. He filled entire vellum notebooks with his scribbles and spent weeks recording the exact movements of a pendulum. (It made, on average, 1,512 ticks per hour.) The discovery of gravity, in other words, wasn’t a flash of insight - it required decades of effort, which is one of the reasons Newton didn’t publish his theory until 1687, in the “Principia.”Now, Isaac Newton probably didn't publish his results until 1687 because he was a secretive bastard. He held back the calculus until Leibniz published, and had a long-running feud with Hooke about who came up with other results. Nevertheless, the underlying lesson is correct: you've got to pick the right goals, and then go after them with a strong, sustained effort. It's what grandma would have done.
Although biographers have long celebrated Newton’s intellect - he also pioneered calculus - it’s clear that his achievements aren’t solely a byproduct of his piercing intelligence. Newton also had an astonishing ability to persist in the face of obstacles, to stick with the same stubborn mystery - why did the apple fall, but the moon remain in the sky? - until he found the answer.
In recent years, psychologists have come up with a term to describe this mental trait: grit. Although the idea itself isn’t new - “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison famously remarked - the researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
(via Russell Davies)