Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ilan Ramon’s diary found, and on display

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

the diary of an israeli astronaut who died in NASA’s space shuttle columbia in ’03 fell 37 miles to earth and evidently landed in palestine, texas. article.

the old dog learned a new rule and now she’s ready to lead?

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

i feel better if the people leading me, or aspiring to lead me, are willing to listen, and are confident enough in their listening, intellective, and social skills to answer questions clearly and honestly.

last night, it looked like palin was taught to recognize certain words, or groups of words, and, if she heard those words, or if she felt that she wasn’t prepped to answer a given question, she responded with the ‘answer the question you want to answer, not the question you were asked‘ response, often described by the media as being on point.

fuck that.

this was particularly clear during the second half of the debate that featured foreign policy questions, and the ‘what is your achilles heel’ question. i didn’t feel she answered most of those questions. instead, she offered variations on campaign slogans.

i wasn’t impressed with either biden or palin (did she really say ‘dog-gone-it’ at one point?) – although biden seemed much more willing to answer the questions.

i was very interested, though, in speaking with some of my fellow traveler’s (i watched the debate in an airport – but google that phrase for a double entendre), who seemed to think that she’d done a good job. i think that her ‘answers’, especially the non-linear, ‘answer the question i want to answer’, platform shill answers, seemed to have exuded confidence while making sense, and somehow that was enough to create an overall impression that she is, in fact, confident, and even competent, and, to some, even to some who are not on her side, that seems to have meant that she did well in the debate. hmmmm.

how easily some of us seem to be swayed away from following the development of an argument as a dialogue between two or more speakers, and, instead, seeing and accepting an event like the debate last night as two separate, but related monologs, and being ok with that.

moments like this make me realize how disconnected from each other we really are. minimal listening=minimal empathy=big problem.

the debate reminded me of this:
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think about it.

i’m living in my own private einstellung

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

i’m giving a lecture at a conference in a few weeks and i’ll be talking about cognitive sets and the einstellung effect, among other things.

while on my way in to school yesterday i found that my usual means of transport, the light rail, wasn’t running because a tree had fallen on the tracks.

i quickly ran to a bus stop and decided to get off the bus a few blocks early so that i could collect my thoughts before class while i walked.

on the way i got to a very busy street at rush hour and saw a red, do not walk sign in front of me, so i waited. traffic was moving all around me as i stood on the corner, staring carefully at the walk signals. when the traffic light changed the walk icon lit up, i looked both ways, and i headed across the street, about ten feet in a car came to a screeching halt to my left – had it kept going it would have hit me – i was shocked that someone would so brazenly run a light.

i got the the mediant and noticed that the traffic going the other way seemed to be going way too fast approaching the intersection, so i slowly started to cross, keeping my eyes fixed to the oncoming traffic, looking for a sign that they would obey the laws of the road and stop so that i could pass – they didn’t, what the fuck?!

i double checked the walk light, and, sure enough, it was clearly my turn to go – then i looked up at the traffic lights and realized that the walk lights WERE NOT synchronized with the traffic lights. in all my time walking around cities i can’t remember ever seeing that before.

when i got across i called the cops to let them know, and then continued to class, rattled at the thought of how easily i could have been flattened, and how stupid i must have seemed to the motorists who had to slam on their brakes to avoid some idiot (me) wandering into oncoming traffic…

when i got to school we started class and i said some things about cognitive sets, the einstellung effect, and tried to explain how luchins’ water-jar experiment was an excellent example of cognitive sets in action.

i could see that the students’ eyes were glazing over at my explanation and i took a breath to figure out another, more easily accessible, example…

suddenly my traffic incident came to mind and i realized that it was a fine example of a cognitive set – i had been conditioned over time to solve the problem of crossing the street using a specific arrangement of observations and symbols. when those observations and symbols were inverted i literally didn’t notice, and applied my previous set to the different circumstances at hand, and was almost run over.

i had also been wondering about how to illustrate a link between cognitive sets and inattentional blindness, and, once again, fate and chance had provided me with an excellent example.

here’s an interesting video and, if you scroll down, some analysis of change blindness. for the full effect, watch the top video first without reading the article.

palin can win!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

i really don’t think she wants to be vp anymore.

she isn’t acting like a candidate for vp, she’s acting more like someone who believes they are simply cooler, cuter, and wittier than they really are, and if given a microphone is willing prove that for our amusement until we get bored and stop watching.

i seriously think that over the last week she has realized that she can’t bullshit her way around her lack of knowledge and interest in the things that viable candidates for national, political office need to know, and her response seems to be offering even less evidence of knowledge and interest in these areas, and more hockey mom persona.

her most recent katie couric interview, where she confidently refused to specify anything she reads, and her recent campaign stop appearance where she similarly eschewed knowledge in favor of down home flavor are glowing examples.

if she genuinely cared about the world beyond her self and her family, and took her candidacy for VP seriously, and especially after the last week she’s had, she’d be working hard to make her views on political, national, international, and social issues more clear – she’d be working hard to let us know how much she really cares about all of us (an example of this would be to figure out a way to work with the media to get her message across, instead of clumsily demonizing them and shutting down), how qualified she really is, how seriously she takes this opportunity, and how hard she’ll work for us if she’s elected.

not happening.

instead, she seems recently to be turning this presidential campaign into an application for an extension of her fifteen minutes of fame.

she seems to care mostly about her self and her family. i think she now doesn’t believe she’s going to win and she’s now trying to figure out how what she can come away with to improve her and her family’s life when it’s over. i question her commitment to the ideals of bettering of our world through government service, and i think the reception she’s received as a politician from the lower 48 will leave a bad taste in her mouth, and in future voter’s mouths.

based on her recent behavior she seems about to temporarily hijack the campaign and turn it into a platform from which to launch the sarah palin show, a soon-to-be much anticipated summer fill-in coming soon. i really think something like this is her current target, and i think she’ll feel like she has indeed won if something like this comes to pass.

if we’ll be able to control the influence she has over our lives by simply changing a channel then i’ll feel like we won, too.

three succinct explanations for the current financial maelstrom

Monday, September 29th, 2008

i’ve found these very helpful:

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New York Times’ Paul Krugman article

Wall Street Journal article

in other news…

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008


right now: pbs palin poll

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

a friend just sent me this:

PBS is doing one of those instant online polls to ask “America” if they think Sarah Palin is fit to be Vice President.

The GOP has launched a successful all out blitz to get Republicans to go on the site and click “Yes”. As a result right now it looks like 62% of “America” thinks Palin is qualified. The Republicans are going to be milking this for all its worth in their press efforts.

You don’t have to enter your email, or any personal information, just think and click.

i, as not a task.

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

i met some colleagues from other countries and noticed that i introduced myself like this: “hi, i’m a professor.”

to which my foreign colleagues replied, “hi, i work at a university.”

big difference.

absentee voting is for anyone, and may be a great option for you

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

any registered voter may vote as an absentee.

a person must be registered to vote in order to cast an absentee ballot

here is a great site for get everything you’ll need in just a few minutes.

i can think of two compelling reasons to vote as an absentee:

this article suggests that ‘racial misgivings’ in the minds of otherwise democratic white voters may cause them to either not vote at all, or to vote for McCain because he isn’t black. this is extremely discouraging.

i wonder if the atmosphere of the polling site and voting booth, the environmental psychology of those spaces, if you will, won’t encourage the expression of such misgivings in the form of a vote based on them.

I’m imagining that in the isolation of the booth, within the unfamiliarity of the polling site, some may become a bit anxious. a vote cast at that moment, in those strange surroundings, may be more a reflection of that specific moment than a well considered gesture made with a clear mind for a better future.

perhaps, in the quiet of your home, you might be able to take a bit more time to think, and allow your choice to be a reflection of who you think is really the better candidate, and to acknowledge that a vote based on inner, hidden fears, biases, and stereotypes is essentially a vote for the continuation of hidden fears, biases, and stereotypes.

an absentee ballot may be the thing for you.

if you’d like to vote but know deep down that the prospect of leaving your apartment, going off-campus, waiting on a line, etc., are things that you won’t be able to get past, yet you feel this election is something you’d like to participate in, PLEASE consider an absentee vote. it is easy, and you can do it, basically, from your sofa.

a few things:

it seems most absentee ballot requests need to be received by mid-october.

a person must be registered to vote in order to cast an absentee ballot

here’s information for maryland:,

submit the phrase: absentee voting to google and you’ll find appropriate information for your location, or, go here for a one-stop shop to get all the information you’ll need delivered via email.

confidence games/the people’s republic of wall st. ?

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

What we are witnessing may be the greatest destruction of financial wealth that the world has ever seen — paper losses measured in the trillions of dollars. Corporate wealth. Oil wealth. Real estate wealth. Bank wealth. Private-equity wealth. Hedge fund wealth. Pension wealth. It’s a painful reminder that, when you strip away all the complexity and trappings from the magnificent new global infrastructure, finance is still a confidence game — and once the confidence goes, there’s no telling when the selling will stop.

Steven Pearlstein, from Scrambling to Clean Up After A Category 4 Financial Storm