Abu Musab Zarqawi, Think Different. (The Muslim Brothers Already Are).

Praise be to God who gives strength to Islam with His victory….,” by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, U.S. Central Command, 9 January 2006, http://www.centcom.mil/sites/uscentcom1/Shared%20Documents/What%20Extremists%20Say.aspx?PageView=Shared (from ZenPundit).

Long before he began his blog, or even guest blogging here, tdaxp has focused on al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He often knows better. Note this time, though.


Zarqawi should follow the Muslim Brothers. He should think different.

The Party can be considered the Iraqi branch of the — a scary politico-terrorist organization that assassinated Anwar Sadat. But the is supporting elections in Iraq, while Zarqawi’s terrorist group “” is opposing them. Why?

Because the Iraqi Islamic Party is thinking different.

Or more specifically: because the Iraqi Islamic Party is thinking higher.

While the classic work Man, the State, and War lists three levels of international politics analysis, really there are five:

Mnemonic Level Example
Man Individuals George Bush, Osama bin Laden
His Friends Groups Republican Party, al Qaeda
the State States United States, Iraq
Her Friends Alliances NATO, Arab League
War Systems The underlying assumptions

In his letter, Zarqawi castigates the Iraqi Islamic Party for ignoring the Groups level of analysis

We address a message to the Islamic Party, inviting it to abandon this rough road and ruinous path it pursued. It was about to destroy the Sunnis and implicate them in relying on worldly life and accepting the jahiliyah [pre-Islamic] rule, which they disguised as legitimate interests. They should have called on people to perform jihad for the sake of the almighty God and to grieve over our sisters and brothers in the prisons of the worshippers of the cross, instead of rejoicing and dancing in streets to celebrate an imaginary victory and alleged conquest. Where is their zeal for religion and Muslims?

As well as the States — the IIP seems unconcerned with seizing Iraq!

“This Party coordinated contacts with Zalmai Khalil Zad, the U.S. ambassador, who is ruling Iraq, when he met with their leaders in the Green Zone before voting on the infidel constitution, and told them: Vote on the constitution and have what you want. Thus the deal was struck and the Party started to give tempting bribes to certain tribal chiefs to convince them of the need to participate in the elections. What did they get in exchange? A seat in parliament was promised if the tribal chiefs promised to preserve the security of the U.S. forces in their areas. A religion is being sold and a jihad stopped in exchange for a seat in a parliament that does not prevent harm or fight infidelism. Has madness reached the extent that a man should sell out his religion for worthless mundane offers?

At these levels Zarqawi is right in his criticisms: Sunnis make up only 15% of all Iraqis, so a democracy would not favor Sunnis.

But the Iraqi Islamic Party isn’t looking at group and states — its looking at alliances and systems.

While Zarqawi is nickle-and-diming in Iraq, the Iraqi Islamic Party (along with the ) is looking at the Arab world.

The Muslim Brothers want Syria, where they would in a free election.
The Muslim Brothers want Egypt, where they would win a free election.

By thinking simply, Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq are fighting the US and against democracy to take one country.
By thinking different, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Muslim Brothers are working with the US for democracy to take many countries.

The Muslim Brothers know better. They think different.

Betty Friedan, Author of The Feminine Mystique, Has Died

, 1921-2006:

Betty Friedan, the American writer and social activist whose 1963 book The Feminine Mystique became one of the most influential manifestos of the modern feminist movement, has died.

Her cousin, Emily Bazelon, said Friedan died of congestive heart failure at her home in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. It was her 85th birthday.

Friedan, on “concentration camps

Just as with the prisoners in the concentration camps, there are American women who have resisted that death, who have managed to retain a core of self, who have resisted that death, who have managed to retain a core of self, who have not lost touch with the outside world, who use their abilities to some creative purpose. They are women of spirit and intelligence who have refused to “adjust” as housewives. (308)

Wikipedia, on concentration camps:

Concentration camps (Konzentrationslager or KZ) rose to notoriety during their use in Germany during the Nazi era. The general populace referred to them as Kah-Tzets (the initials KZ in German). The Nazi regime maintained concentration camps as labor camps and prisons since the beginning of their regime in 1933. After the beginning of the war, they also established extermination camps for the industrialized mass murder of the Jews of Europe, called the Holocaust, starting in 1941. Over three million Jews would die in these extermination camps, which included Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The victims were primarily killed by gassing, usually in gas chambers, although many prisoners were murdered in mass shootings or perished from hard labor and not enough to eat or drink.

Prisoners in Nazi concentration and labor camps were also treated horrifically, and many died: worked to death on short rations and in bad conditions, or killed if they became unable to work. Slave labor was used by many German companies, who established their own sub-camps. Guards were known to engage in target practice, using their prisoners as targets. During World War II, these concentration camps for “undesirables” were spread throughout Europe, with new camps being created near centers of dense “undesirable” populations, often focusing on areas with large Jewish, Polish intelligentsia, communists, or Roma populations. Most of the camps were located in the area of General Government in Poland. The transportation of prisoners was often carried out under horrifying conditions using rail freight cars, in which many died before they reached their destination. Concentration camps for Jews and other “undesirables” also existed in Germany itself, and while not specifically designed for systematic extermination, like the extermination camps, many concentration camp prisoners died because of harsh conditions or were executed.

It is estimated that up to ten million people died in Nazi concentration camps, of them six million were killed in the 15 larger ones.

Friedan, on navel-gazing and forgetting real concentration camps:

Women went home again just as men shrugged off the bomb, forgot the concentration camps, condoned corruption, and fell into helpless conformity; just as the thinkers avoided the complex larger problems of the postwar world. it was easier, safer, to think about love and sex than about communism, McCarthy, and the uncontrolled bomb. It was easier to look for Freudian sexual roots in man’s behavior, his ideas, and his wars than to look critically at his society and act constructively to right its wrongs. There was a kind of personal retreat, even on the part of the most far-sighted, the most spirited; we lowered our eyes from the horizon, and steadily contemplated our own navels. (186-187)

5GW: Soundless + Formless + Polished + Leading

Riding the Tiger: What You Really Do with OODA Loops,” by Chester Richards, Belisarius, October 2002, http://www.belisarius.com/modern_business_strategy/richards/riding_the_tiger/tiger.htm.

Chrome,” by VNV Nation, Matter + Form, 12 April 2005, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007X9TTI/102-4292267-8637755?v=glance&n=5174 [buy the cd].

I won’t say that between Sun Tzu, Musashi, and tdaxp, you shall learn everything you need to about 5GW.


But add VNV Nation’s Matter + Form, and you probably will.



In this article I will show how important elements of the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare were described by Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi. I will tie these into my own previous writings on this blog. Additionally, just as Myke Cole reflected 5GW theory off cartoons, I shall shine it through music to emphasize the key points.

I’ve been reading a lot of educational psychology for my studies at UNL, such as Elkind’s All Grown Up and No Place to Go and Weisberg’s Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius. I wanted to reading something meatier, so I turned to DNI‘s Suggested Reading List and found Dr. Chet Richard’s Riding the Tiger.

The article goes on to describe how to use the loop in business, but to me the first part was most interesting, because it seemed to focus on 5GW. , or , is the next generation of modern war.

In my first post on 5GW, I wrote:

If traditional war centered on an enemy’s physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength. A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war. It’s like the old question of what was the perfect robbery: we will never know, because in a perfect robbery the bank would not know that it was robbed.

and in my second 5GW post:

In 5GW, secrecy is vital for success. While this has always been true on some levels, secrecy has never been vital on the grand-strategic level before 5GW. In 5GW the enemy’s knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans.

So I was delighted, while reading Richard’s Riding the Tiger, to see similar themes in Sun Tzu:

Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness;
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness;
Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

Soundless. Formless. Remember those.

And Sun Tzu’s Japanese doppelganger, Miyamoto Musashi (as summarized by Richards)

Yet, he specifically intended for his words to apply to more than just swordplay, and even there, he insisted that victory would go to the master of strategy, not to the strongest swordsman, nor to the fastest, nor even to the fighter with the most polished technique.

The focus, however, is never on defending, but on regaining and using the initiative so that you can lead your opponents where you want them to be.

Polished. Leading. Remember those.

These themes are echoed in VNV Nation‘s new track, Chrome


I’m saying nothing for the good of myself
but I’m still talking and you’re not listening


resort to shadows till your body expires


for each and all a chrome disguise…
embody promise in a sheen so pure


prompts for action force reaction

I’ve also discussed these elements in detail on tdaxp


But of course if parts of the world know they are being attacked, they will try to fight back.

So to win the SecretWarrior must walk without rhythm to avoid the worm of hurtful information.


In contrast to “hearts and minds,” 5GW focuses on the enemy’s “fingertips and gut.” “Fingertip feeling,” what the Germans called fingerspitzengefuhl, is the ability to know without thinking. This is what Americans call “gut feeling.” To a certain extent, it means a commander trusting his intuition. It is critical in 5GW because fingertip feelings, or “hunches,” will be the only way for the enemy to sense the fighter.


To put it in OODA decision cycle terms, the guard Observes a loosely dressed woman, orients this with knowledge of previously so-dressed women, acts by watching more, observes information in the context of believing he is watching a loose woman, etc. Thus the SecretWarrior gets inside the head of the Yakuza boss’s guards. The 5GWarrior rearranges the mind of her enemy, changing his fingertip-feelings into something better for her.

Just as the 5GWarrior must struggle with her physical appearance to be only a girl, the SecretWarrior must also struggle with her beliefs to appear to be only a girl.


SecretWar, or 5th Generation War, relies on leveraging power while minimizing visibility. A successful 5GW operation would be able to subdue or subvert a government without being noticed. Therefore it is appropriate that Stratfor, started by the author of America’s Secret War, outlines a way for SecretWarriors to subvert corporate America: shareholder activism.

A polished 5GW army will soundlessly and formlessly his enemy to where he wants him to be: and that will be the end of the 5GW. The loser will never know he lost. A repeated 5GW victim may sense his illness, but with 5GW attacking his Observation capacity, the victim’s response will probable make his situation worse.

in desperation dreams any soul can set you free
and I still hear you scream
in every breath, in every single motion
burning innocence the fire to set you free

your actions turn conquest to dust
in portents of fate you foolishly place trust

And that is the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare.

Operationalizations & Alternative Rival Hypotheses

Last week’s scope & methods notes described a political science research design. This week first jumps back by looking at the correct way to operationalizeze variables, and then goes back even further into the literature review, discussinlternativelternative rival hypotheses.

This class is very much a “nuts and bolts” introduction to political science. The last literature review and research design I wrote, for international politics, was written without the benefit of knowing how to do it “right.” Next time, I will know what to do. This class is well worth it.

And now, the boring notes…

Operationalizing Variables

– define a variable in a way that is empirically measurable
– easiest mistake to make
– example: how do you determine democracy-ness?

Whenever you measure, your measure must be
– exhaustive: all categories should sum to 100%
– exclusive: overlap should be 0%

Levels of Measurement (from lowest to highest)
rule of thumb: measure at highest (level you can
– interval better than ordinal better than nominal
– simple categorizations
– just exhaustive and mutually exclusive
– examples: sex, religion, etc.
– categories that can be logically ranked
– examples: education level (less than hs, hs, some college, …. )
– categories with meaningful standard distances between attributes
– also includes Ratios, where there is an absolute zero
– examples: age, heights
– non-ratio example: net income

Single Indicators v. Multiple Indicators
– Single Indicator: measuring income with “income”
– Multiple Indicators: measuring voter participation with voting in federal, state, and local elections

Measurement Error
– the mismatch between the measurement of the concept and the concept
– two kinds of measurement error
— systematic errors:
— errors introduced that are consistent and constant across cases
— example: if questions are difficult to answer, then the survey will be biased toward intelligent people
— relatively easy to find
— random errors:
— “any random error introduced into the model for any other reason”
— “white noise”
— example: someone mistypes a number into a computer

Validity and Reliability
– validity
— you are measuring what you think you are measuring
— systematic measurement errors lead to invalidity
— incorrect operationalizations also cause invalidity
– reliability
— getting the same results consistently
— reproducibility

Alternate Rival Hypothesis

“A hypothesis is an alternative rival hypothesis if it is ‘mutually exclusive’ to the original hypothesis.” (Mannheim and Rich)
– may be better to say “sheds reasonable doubt”

include, or at least, acknowledge, alternative rival hypotheses in the research design

– compare your group to a control group
– make sure the comparison is between similar group (no hidden variables)
– no end to all possible ARHs
– a research design may help discover ARHs
– should control the independent variable of the ARH to prove the hypothesis

Moonjets, Muslim Protest Babes, and more


Crazy props to the tdaxp reader who sent me this:

The lander descended the final few feet to the surface of the moon. There was a thump heard within the lander and then touchdown was announced to Mission Control. Buzz Aldrin slumped at the controls, a thin trickle of blood dribbling from the bullet hole in his temple. Neil Armstrong looked at the lunar module pilot one last time before tightening the seals on his helmet.

“I’m sorry, old friend.”

He closed Aldrin’s eyes with an awkward sweep of his gloved hand. The lunar module popped with escaping air and Armstrong carefully descended the ladder.

“Armstrong, you forgot the line.” The voice came over his headset.

Armstrong turned to the camera mounted on the lunar module to make sure he was perfectly centered in the frame. Then he unfurled the flag and drove it into the soil of the moon. A gasp went up at Mission Control.

“I claim this world and all I survey for the empire of Armstrong.”

A perfectly-timed formation of MoonJets passed overhead trailing smoke. The war for the moon had begun.

Much more below the fold….

The moonjet photo is from some Japanese blog.

In other blog news, Catholicgauze rails against evil maps. And evil geography. (Courtesy the German Propaganda Archive. )

Against the clear will of the people, in the early 1980s the most aggressive circles of Imperialism in the USA, West Germany and other NATO lands began a course of confrontation and armament. In the USA alone 199 billion dollars were spent on arms in 1982. In the 1985-1986 fiscal year the money designated for arms rose to 302.5 billion dollars.


(Compare that map with this American map of Eurasia Or even NATO maps of potential Soviet attacks…)

Elsewhere, my series on Liberal Education (I, II, III, and IV) has sparked some posts on the blogosphere. Mark of ZenPundit mentioned it twice (but his blogspot is having problems — even worse than blogspirit’s comments snafu). Meanwhile, Curtis wrote about it thrice (I, II, III). Still no mention on Amendment IX though…

Chirol from Coming Anarchy looks at the Muslim cartoon controversy (I, II) .


As the guy is supposed to me Mohammed, I assume the women are his beloved daughter Fatima and his dear wife Aisha. Fatima later died in a mysterious door accident, and her family went on to have had some trouble with other Muslims.

Lifting our hearts, Marc shows off anti-Danish Muslim protest babes.


Though I prefer the far-sexier Muslim Sisterhood. Or even asian sirens, brought to tdaxp‘s attention by an otherwise respectable blogger. Asian Sirens also look at the Mohammed cartoons, so I guess they’re kinda respectable.

Until Tom mentioned it, I was barely aware of the bruhaha. I learned a bunch from The Smoking Gun.

From my home state, Academic diversity may come to the universities of South Dakota, while Tom Daschle runs to Iowa (and Washington?).

I saw The Rutles in All You Need is Cash two days ago. For a movie combining SNL and Monty Python, it was OK. Not great. But good enough for me to queue the sequel.

Rx of thepartyparty has a new song up: MLK (rise again). Not as good as Happy Christmas & a Whole Lotta Love, but still pretty good.

Well, last time I mentioned a new Rx song I teased a future tdaxp feature, so I will conclude by doing that again: this. this.


Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Coherence

Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius,” by Robert Weisberg, 1993, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0716723670/102-4292267-8637755?v=glance&n=283155.

Neural Activity When People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight,” by Mark Jung-Beeman, Edward M. Bowden, Jason Haberman, Jennifer L. Frymiare, Stella Arambel-Liu, Richard Greenblatt, Paul J. Reber1, John Kounios2, PLoS Biology, April 2004, http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0020097 (from ZenPundit).

Whorf hypothesis is supported in the right visual field but not the left,” by
Aubrey L. Gilbert, Terry Regier, Paul Kay, Richard B. Ivry, PNAS, published online 30 December 2005, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/103/2/489 (from University of Chicago News Office via Slashdot).

It’s the blogs v. the books, as links from Slashdot and ZenPundit help to smack down Dr. Bob Weisberg.


I. The John Kerry of Creativity

Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius by Dr. is a hard book to describe. It is written poorly. It is readable. It is informative. It is original. And it is written badly.

The author, Dr. Bob Weisberg, hides his thesis in bits and pieces through the text. The book apparently has two main claims: that analogical thinking is superior to horizontal thinking and that small logical leaps are superior to big logical leaps.

Along the way he makes other questionable claims, such that there is no unconscious thought or that Thomas Edison is an example of a typical “creative” person. Or rather, Dr. Weisberg appears to state this.

Imagine if John Kerry wrote a book on cognition, and you’ll imagine how tortuously Dr. Weisberg’s thoughts are obscured.

The claims of Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius by Dr. seemed so strange, that after a hundred pages I had to go back to the beginning. He’s half right. About everything.

He criticizes horizontal thinking and praises analogical thinking. But both horizontal thinking and analogical thinking are important.

He criticizes “big leap” thinking and praises “small leap” thinking. But both big leaps and small leaps are important.

I will attempt to describe Dr. Weisberg’s thinking. But it’s difficult, so I apologize for this post’s rambling nature.

II. Analogical Thinking v. Horizontal Thinking

He spills ink to attack horizontal, or “lateral” thinking

A related concept was developed by Edward deBono, one of the leaders of the creativity-training movement, whose theorizing is often cited by psychologists and others who have written about training creativity. According to deBono, solving many problems, especially the most important ones, requires a fresh viewpoint, one not provided by ordinary “tried and true” logical thinking. This different mode of thought (the intuited mode) is what deBono calls “lateral” thinking since it moves “sidways,” to a new way of looking at a situation.

Everyone has come across the type of problem which seems impossible to solve and then turns out to have an obvious answer. These are the problems that elicit the remark: “Why didn’t I think of that before?” Many inventions are obvious once someone else has thought of them… Lateral thinking seeks to get away from the patterns that are leading one in a definite direction and to move sideways by re-forming the patterns

Although they have different histories and come from different backgrounds, deBono’s notion of lateral thinking seems to be very similar to Guilford’s concept of divergent thinking. Both have as a central idea that overcoming old habtis (that is, being flexible, moving laterally), is the crux of creative thinking.

but a number of investigators in the field have conclucded that divergent-thinking tests do not measure either creative thinking or the capacity to become creative

yet Dr. Weisberg praises analogical thinking

In the examples just discussed, solutions were brought to mind as the result of what is called “analogical transfer” in problem solving. Attaching a candle to a vertical surface and attaching one to a horizontal surface are analogous situations, since they have the same structure (attaching a candle to a surface), which means that information from the already familiar situation can be retrieved when the problem is represented, and can then be transferred to the problem, to serve as a basis for behavior…

The use of analogical thought in problem solving has important implications for our understanding of creative thinking. If one were to ask the problem solver why he or she thought to use the wax as glue, say, the response might be that the thought simply popped into mind, intuitively. The thinker might eb tempted to assume that if a solution came to mind suddenly, with no logical reasoning involved, in must have been brought about by unconscious thought process, but that does not follow. The lack of explicit steps of logical reasoning only supports the conclusion that logical reasoning was not involved; it provides no direct evidence for unconscious or any other processes. Furthermore, analogical thinking explains retrieval of a solution without assuming that either logical thinking or unconscious thought processes. were involved. Analogical thinking is not unconscious, since the thinker is obviously conscious when it is carried out and it does not use “primary-process” associations, but t does not utilize a string of explicit steps that can be reported (98-99)

I consider horizontal and analogical thinking closely related. Looking at Mark’s diagram of thought:


We see that horizontal thinking allows an expert to find analogous concepts.

But while this debate may be a question of wording, Weisberg is wrong on a deeper matter, too.

III. “I’d vote for the Left Hemisphere Before I’d Vote for the Right”

An arcane theme of the book is that “remote associations” are unimportant, and that even “ah ha!” moments are just the result of a series of “close associations.” In other words, Weiseberg denies that highly creative people make “mental leaps” at all, and that there thinking is really just incremental.

Simonton likewise believes that creative geniuses (those who have made extraordinary contributions) do so in part because they possess many mental elements, which enable them to form many permutations. In addition, these elements in the genius are not strongly interassociated, so that more remote combinations can be produced more easily. Simonton has applied his theory to a wide-ranging set of phenomena, including the changes in creative productivity in age and the relationship between quantity and quality of creative output over a career. (57)

The concept of remote associations as the basis for creative thinking also has not received strong support. First, Midnick’s RAT [Remote Association Test] has not had great success in predicting creative ability in individuals…”

Based on the studies reviewed earlier in this chapter, which have found no evidence for remote analogical transfer to the radiation problem without overlap of surface information

Yet MRI studies which examined problem studies have discovered that “ah ha!” moments are not at all the same as figuring something out. While regular thought may indeed by step-by-step, eureka thinking is biologically different

Recent work suggests that people are thinking—at an unconscious level—about the solution prior to solving problems with insight. Specifically, while working on a verbal problem they have yet to solve, people presented with a potential solution word read the actual solution word faster than they read an unrelated word (Bowden and Beeman 1998). This “solution priming” effect is greater—and in fact people make solution decisions about presented words more quickly—when words are presented to the left visual hemifield, which projects directly to the right hemisphere (RH), than when words are presented to the right visual hemifield, which projects to the left hemisphere (LH). This suggests that RH semantic processing is more likely than LH semantic processing to produce lexical or semantic information that leads to the solution. These RH advantages occur only when solvers experience insight—the “Aha!” or “Eureka!” feeling that comes with insight solutions (Bowden and Jung-Beeman 2003a). Moreover, when subjects try to solve classic insight problems, they benefit more from hints presented to the left visual field (i.e., the RH) than from hints presented to the right visual field (i.e., the LH) (Fiore and Schooler 1998).

Once again, Weisberg is half-right. Left-brain thinking is indeed based on “close associations” and careful thought. But insight and eureka do exist — and when they happen they occur in the remotely-associating right hemisphere of the brain.

Further evidence for this is based on studies of how language effect thinking. The words used for colors effect how people see those colors — but only when the information is processed by the brain’s left hemisphere:

Scholars have long debated whether our native language affects how we perceive reality — and whether speakers of different languages might therefore see the world differently. The idea that language affects perception is controversial, and results have conflicted. A paper published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports the idea — but with a twist. The paper suggests that language affects perception in the right half of the visual field, but much less, if at all, in the left half. The paper, “Whorf Hypothesis is Supported in the Right Visual Field but not in the Left,” by Aubrey Gilbert, Terry Regier, Paul Kay, and Richard Ivry — is the first to propose that language may shape just half of our visual world.

This finding is suggested by the organization of the brain, the researchers say. Language function is processed predominantly in the left hemisphere of the brain, which receives visual information directly from the right visual field. “So it would make sense for the language processes of the left hemisphere to influence perception more in the right half of the visual field than in the left half”, said Terry Regier of the University of Chicago, who proposed the idea behind the study.

Ultimately, Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius is an annoying book. It is slow and (physically) disjointed in present its hypothesis that it is difficult to argue from. When it sets horizontal thinking against analogical thinking, the author seems to be boxing shadows. Likewise, the author’s denial of leaps of insights and other such claims makes him more argumentative than informative.

IV. What does this all mean?

Coincidentally, Mark posted a brain teaser on his blog

” A man approached the border in a black Cadillac. The driver, John Jones, was well-known to customs officials as a suspected smuggler so they went through his car and personal belongings with a fine tooth comb. Under the wheel of the spare tire in the trunk, the customs agents found a small package. Delighted at their discovery they hurriedly unwrapped it and found it contained only some glass beads, a few paper clips and some string. Deeply puzzled, they reluctantly had to let Jones cross over the border.

This process repeated itself, every day, seven days a week for ten years. Every day, customs officials searched Jones’ car and every day they found a small package filled with glass beads, paper clips and string but nothing else. In frustration, the officials began confiscating the package but they had to let Jones continue on his journey and every day he appeared with a new package, always hidden underneath the spare tire.

Then, one day, Jones failed to appear. Nor did he show up the next day or the day after that. In fact he never returned to the border again. Then, one day, a customs official happened to be on vacation in the neighboring country and he ran into Jones in a bar and approached him in a friendly manner.

” Look here” he began ” every day for ten years you crossed the border and we never found a thing. I know you were smuggling something ! What was it ? “

In a comment, I added

Now here’s the question — would the percentage answering it correctly increase if they read it with only their left eye open?

This relates to the two articles — the left visual field feeds into the right hemisphere of the brain. This is the more creative and less “linguistic” part of the brain. Based on psychological studies, subjects should answer this riddle faster if they look at it exclusively through big mental leaps, and not small ones.

Blogspirit’s Comments Are Finally Up Again

My blog hosting service, blogspirit, is odd. It is in many ways the friendliest blog-hosting service available, and gives its bloggers a lot of very easy tools to make neat blogs. That’s why I host tdaxp, Junk Politics, and NationMaster Watch here.

But Blogspirit’s actions are often insensitive to the point of stupid.

In what (I guess) is an effort to stop comment spam, Blogspirit has turned of all comments on all blogs, without telling anyone, for an indeterminate about of time.

I just noticed this because I wanted to respond to Eddie’s fine comment. I’ll keep trying, and update this post (and the title) when comments seem to be back up.

Update 3:49 PM: Comments still down. Blogspirit’s previous anti-tdaxp “fixes”

Update Friday Morning: Finally working.

Another record-breaking month for tdaxp

Thank you.


January 2006 was the best-visited ever month for tdaxp. Breaking all previous records, sitemeter recorded more than 25,000 unique visits to this blog. Blogspirit‘s own count says 40,280.

I owe tdaxp readers another thanks, too.

For a brief, shining day, every post on the tdaxp homepage was commented!

Thanks to the Big Names, Dr. Barnett and Dr. Richards, who say fit to help me out.

Mad props to all the blogs that have accepted me into their community, especially Coming Anarchy, Phatic Communion, and ZenPundit

Last, crazy shout-out to all readers and commentators. You make tdaxp what it is.