Dell Hell… or at least purgatory!

I am currently in Dell Chat, attempting to get Dell to honor its warranty. My old LCD monitor had a bad column of pixels, and so was replaced by a technician. However, the entire new LCD has a viewing area much smaller than the old one.

My goal is to have a technician come out and replace the bad LCD screen, which I only have because it was installed yesterday by a Dell technician. The technician’s obvious goal is to prevent this from happening.

Update: After refusing several times, the service technician agreed to send out a new LCD screen and have an installer put it in. Persistence pays off!

Gates: Defeat al Qaeda, Shrink the Gap, Embrace the New Core

Secretary Gates, who got his post as head of the U.S. Department of Defense after losing to Nebraska, is my kind of guy (and not just because he acknowledges the eternal supremacy of the Cornhuskers).

Gates Sees Terrorism Remaining Enemy No. 1 –
The strategy document, which has not been released, calls for the military to master “irregular” warfare rather than focusing on conventional conflicts against other nations, though Gates also recommends partnering with China and Russia in order to blunt their rise as potential adversaries. The strategy is a culmination of Gates’s work since he took over the Pentagon in late 2006 and spells out his view that the nation must harness both military assets and “soft power” to defeat a complex, transnational foe.

Both John McCain and Barack Obama should be asked if they will keep on Robert Gates as Defense Secretary.

Obama Cries Racism

The video is at ABC News. The words:

“Nobody thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face. So what they are going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama warned, “You know he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all of those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

Like a child who has learned to make a scene, Obama has long since learned that people will go easy on him if he complains about racism while speaking standard American English. Having likely received every position he ever held because of his race, a world without affirmative action is a world inconceivable to Barack Obama. Whenever things do not go well for him, Obama has learned to complain of racism.

What a cry baby.

Hat-tip to the Weekly Standard.

A Simple Model of Performance

Over the past year I have worked on grounding John Boyd’s OODA loop in modern psychology. Both here, and more often in academic drafts, I have described Orientation as System 1 or intuitive cognition, Decision as System 2 or deliberate cognition, Observation as perception and Action as behavior. I still think that the OODA model, or something very much like it, is probably the best high-level conceptual model of the human mind that we have available.

However, it does not help us understand what causes variance in the population, in most tasks. The reason for this is that it does not directly address the issue of Motivation. To use a computer metaphor if Orientation or System 1 is the hard drive, controller cards, and BIOS, while System 2 is RAM, then Motivation is the hypervisor, or that thing that controls the ability of everything else to engage in behaviors to achieve a goal. Motivation, or the hypervisor, is useful because it regulates System 1/Orientation/Long-Term Memory’s and System 2/Decision/Working Memory’s control of behavior, which in turn affects performance. A model of cognition that does not include performance misses both motivation’s regulation of behavior, and motivation’s direct impact on performance. A model derived from Horn et al. (1993) may give us a way forward:

The cognitive components of this model can each be broken down into sub-components. Long-term memory includes both procedural knowledge (how to ride a bike, how to tie your shoes) and declarative knowledge (how you would answer questions: what is a bike? what are shoes?). Many tasks require procedural and decalarative knowledge to operate together. Working-memory includes visual working memory, which is in tasks such as imagining the rotation of objects in three-dimensional space, and verbal working memory, which is used to remember lists, numbers or names. As far as I can tell, motivation loads from both self-efficacy, the believe that as of now you can perform specific tasks to reach a goal, and attitudes, especially the enjoyment of a thing (as it relates to consumption) and desire to block out the world (as it relates to production).

This leaves the question of where the Central Executive is. John Sweller has argueed that it exists in Long-Term Memory, and indeed that no central executive is conceivable other than one that operates through a darwinistic random process within System 1 / Orientation. Alan Baddeley asserts it is a third component of working memory, alongside visual and verbal working memory, because central executive functions appear to tax working memory capacity. Albert Bandura asserts that humans are “agents,” and their Central Executive agency must rely within their Motivation. I don’t know.

The harmonization of John Boyd’s OODA loop with this model of what actually predicts performance is an important task for the field of psychology, especially if it can account for creativity. I hope somebody does it.

Ukraine out of Russia

Good happenings in the effort to embed Ukraine in Europe:

Slavic rivals embroiled in church rift – International Herald Tribune
MOSCOW: For many Russians, it is bad enough that the president of Ukraine is pushing to join NATO and to eject the Russian Navy from its Black Sea port. But over the weekend, the confrontation over Ukraine’s attempts to shrug off Russian influence reached an even more painful emotional pitch – with a new tug of war over history, identity and power.

President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine chose the 1,020th anniversary of the advent of Christianity in the Slavic kingdom that predated both Ukraine and Russia – a date that each country claims as a founding event of its nationhood – to issue a public plea for Ukraine’s Orthodox Christians to gain independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russia is a natural-resource-exporting Central Asian state that is in the orbit of China. Ukraine deserves a fate better than this. Breaking the economic, social, and cultural ties of the past is part of moving future.

Good wishes to the Ukrainian struggle to break away from the Russian church.

Godspeed to the Ukrainian struggle of Ukraine to break away from Russia… and join Europe.

Obama’s Awful International Trip (?)

I take some pride in being one of the few commentators to note at the time how disastrous Obama’s awful speech on race would become.  It was clear to me at the time that the bad effects of the speech would hurt Obama in the primaries, and possibly the general election.  The speech was especially damaging considering how March began with the perfect opportunity for Obama to codemn affirmative-action… and opportunity he spit in the face.  Dean Barrett suggests Obama’s recent trip abroad may cause similar damage:

The Weekly Standard
The Rasmussen tracking poll also suggests that the long term impact of the Talking Tour will harm Obama. An initial bump from the trip that swelled Obama’s lead to eight points at the end of last week has vanished. Today, the lead has shrunk to one.

What’s especially problematic for Obama is there’s no obvious way for him to undo the damage of his Talking Tour. If he suddenly decides that he should value David Petraeus’ opinion rather than publicly minimize it, his insincerity will be transparent. And it’s impossible for him to unring the bell of talking 40 minutes of One World gibberish to a bunch of swooning Germans.

Obama may have lost another opportunity.  In March, Obama had the opportunity to distance himsefl from race-based politics.  Instead, he embraced it  And in July, Obama had the opportunity to support General Petreaus.  Instead, he spoke proudly of arguing with him – of holding “animated discussion” with the man who oversaw MNF-Iraq during the Surge, the Anbar Awakening, and what may be the triumphant moments of the Iraq War.

The Core’s War for Pakistan

Surprisingly to many (including myself), the War against Terrorism is being revelaed to be a War for Pakistan.  We’re fighting in Afghanistan.  India is fighting in Kashmir:

SRINAGAR, India — Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded fire across the heavily armed Kashmir frontier for more than 12 hours overnight and into Tuesday in what the Indian army called the worst violation of a 2003 cease-fire agreement between the neighbors.

The night-long gunbattle came after one Indian soldier and four Pakistanis were killed Monday along the frontier that divides Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, the Indian army said. No further casualties were reported Tuesday.

Indian, Pakistani Soldiers Trade Fire Along Kashmir Border –

Either destroying Pakistan’s pro-Taliban “ISI” or breaking Pakistan’s ability to conduct an independent foreign policy are worthwhile golas.  Let’s hope the Core steps up its efforts to pursue them.

Liberals v. Science

Science is unpopular. Many, especially among the uneducated branches of the religious right, reject evolution.

It is equally unpopular among many liberals, who reject what science says about sex differences.

As educated liberals have much more influence over the formation of national policy than uneducated religionists, I’m more concerned about liberals.

For instance, yet another study came out showing, once again, that males have a much greater variance in math achievement than females. That is, female scores tend to bunch together near the mean, while male scales are more likely to be way up or way down. While this leaves the average unchanged, it implies both more math PhDs and more special education students will be males. More of the typical ‘good students’ (but not overachievers) that teachers like are females.


Unsurprisingly, the New York Times reports the study as finding no sex differences. Other liberal publications, such as the Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, and The Chronicle of Higher Education toe the party line. This would be like a Jack Chick pamphlet describing modern biology as reporting no evidence for evolution.

Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal (owned by Rupert Murdoch, who supports science) gets it right.

Thanks to gnxp, Marginal Revolution, and Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science for helping to uncover this story.

The Affirmative Action Candidate

John McCain is once again against racial preferences.

Barack Obama plays the race card yet again, “jokingly” complaining that he is “too black.” This is analogous to if John McCain would complaining that he is “too heroic” — it is obvious, cheesy, and an attempt to short-circuit debate.

I am against race-based campaigns or race-based administration, so Barack Obama’s race-baiting (and John McCain’s attempt to move the country beyond race) makes the decision in 2008 even clearer for me.

John McCain already had my vote for his find stand on positions such as immigration, free trade, Iraq, and abortion. The weekend’s news made it clear that John McCain is right on race, too.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, is the Affirmative Action candidate. Too bad.