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Wednesday, August 01, 20071185996900

Open Thread VIII

The eighth month of the year. The eighth open thread of the blog.

Fight Revision! Say what you want to say!

14:35 Posted in Blogosphere | Permalink | Comments (29) | Tags: open thread


Russia plants a flag in the artic ocean:


apparently it's their lake. Let's see if they can hang onto the far East against China.

Posted by: ElamBend | Wednesday, August 01, 2007

In the 1970s I helped build a hot air balloon, solar powered, that flew over the North Pole.

It was a big black Canadian flag.

Posted by: sonofsamphm1c | Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Considering how Russia even struggles to hold on to Belarus [1] -- let alone longer-term demographic pressures among Muslims and Chinese -- Moscow's iceberg-grab of the North Pole is as crazy as Mark's quest for the Throne of Thule [2]!

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/02/world/europe/02russia.html?ref=europe
[2] http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2007/08/all-hail-zenpundit-i.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Thursday, August 02, 2007

An article in Outside the Beltway on the need for reform in the Service Academies. Given Dan's interests and education, this seems an obvious one.

Posted by: Michael | Thursday, August 02, 2007

D'oh! Forgot to include the link!


Need to juggle less stuff for a while. . .

Posted by: Michael | Thursday, August 02, 2007


Great article!

Ultimately the best education for anything is practice, so I'm skeptical of the role of formal schooling of actually helping in the real world. Schooling is great for pushing declarative knowledge, but to actually perform you need the procedural knowledge that only comes from practice.

What a math- and science- heavy curriculum does do, however, is weed out students. To get past math and science, you need to actually have talent in the field, have a higher general intelligence, be a studious worker, or some combination of the three.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Thursday, August 02, 2007

Or the ability to cheat - in combo with the other three.

Posted by: sonofsamphm1c | Thursday, August 02, 2007

Many argue that there is an American empire, and there is. The empire IS America and is [almost] open to all:
It is the safe harbor for all folks money and children.

Check out especially the fifth paragraph from the bottom:

Why? Good internal sys-admin?

Posted by: ElamBend | Thursday, August 02, 2007


Posted by: PurpleSlog | Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ultima Thule is rising !

Posted by: zenpundit | Thursday, August 02, 2007

The anonymous authors from Kent's Imperative blog are made up of at least one of the bloggers from the Coming Anarchy blog.

Posted by: Mr Tipster | Friday, August 03, 2007

Just sayin', the Russian flag stunt is a little bigger deal than the media realizes.

Posted by: sonofsamphm1c | Friday, August 03, 2007

The tortuous decline of Russia from a superpower to a central asian state is marked by any number of big deals, from the sudden (the extortion of Belarus, the Orange Revolution) to the slow (the Chechen War, the Shangai Cooperation Organization).

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, August 03, 2007

The last 7 years are not the 1990s.

Don't look now, but the bear may have just set up shop on Wall Street. Cramer is hysterical.

Posted by: sonofsamphm1c | Friday, August 03, 2007

Yeah, but does math and science talent necessarily help? Anyone who knows me knows they don't always correlate with people skills:P More specifically, does the current system allow the military to find and cultivate people who combine general intelligence, hard work and studiousness with the ability to read others and learn foreign languages easily?

Posted by: Michael | Friday, August 03, 2007


Could you rephrase?


As much as I hate relying on wikipedia when discussing science, they summarize general intelligence (of which math's logical reasoning is a huge component as follows:

"g positively correlates with conventional measures of success (income, academic achievement, job performance, career prestige) and negatively correlates with various social issues (school dropout, unplanned childbearing, poverty) . IQ tests that measure a wide range of abilities do not predict much better than g." [1]

A bureaucratic hierarchy naturally selected for interpersonal skills, so combining that with an intellectually rigorous academic component should select for both at the same time. The system isn't perfect, but no system is.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_intelligence_factor

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, August 04, 2007

How many of the young officers being sent overseas are going to have that kind of experience in navigating the military heirarchy, though? The whole point of places like the military academies is to maximize the amount of preparation for active duty that can be achieved before the duty actually starts; otherwise, you'd be better off scrapping the officer system altogether and putting the smartest/best-educated non-coms in charge.

Posted by: Michael | Monday, August 06, 2007

Very good point!

How do we institutionally screen for "people skills" so early in a career?

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Well, there's always the old standby: extra-curricular activities.

Chess club?

Posted by: sonofsamphm1c | Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I apologize for the long comment. It doesn't look like blogspirit allows paragraph breaks:P A few ideas for getting these skills in the officer corps come to mind.

Prior selection of candidates:
Give preference in officer recruiting (for OCS and ROTC, as well as the Academies) to combat vets. People who've already been overseas and learned the hard way. Pretty close to scrapping the officer corps, but it provides a shortcut.

Give preference to immigrants or the children thereof. They've already had to adjust to a strange culture-- ours! People with prior experience traveling overseas MIGHT be worthy of preference, depending on the nature of their travel (a resort in Cancun doesn't count!).

Give preference to people with strong second language skills, period. Learning a second language as a child is supposed to make it easier to learn additional languages as an adult, so even the guy who learned Sinhalin or Klingon as a kid may be desireable if he can easily learn Arabic now.

Alternative forms of officer education:
Expand ROTC programs and OCS recruiting in the better Liberal Arts colleges. Note that better doesn't necessarily mean Conservative or Liberal, religious or secular: it just means they're good at producing graduates who can actually think instead just cranking out second-rate ideologues. Note that this may mean coming to an understanding on the subject of gays: this shouldn't be too difficult since the military can't afford to kick gays out anymore and sending graduates into the military offers a better means of exerting influence than protests and peace-ins.

Fund the establishment of Arab and other strategic language departments at colleges and universities with good language programs. Be generous in funding ROTC scholarships and other such deals in colleges and universities which already have effective programs in these languages. Note that I'm not talking about history or cultural programs: I figure that's a lot easier to learn than language, and is a lower priority as such.

Some MBA programs put a strong emphasis on group activity and social skills. A study of them might reveal techniques the Academies could use and/or suggest additional opportunities for recruitment.

One academy change that comes readily to mind: make terms at friendly foreign military academies mandatory. Set up agreements for such exchanges with as many countries as is reasonable, and expand your language course offerings accordingly. Emphasis should be on getting as many of your cadets as possible through as alien a cultural environment as possible.

Posted by: Michael | Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Oh, the page breaks made it through after all! I wonder why the preview section didn't include them?

Anyway, on a related note, here's a list of the 50 best Liberal Arts colleges I just found on MSN.


To illustrate the potential of expanding ROTC programs among these, notice that Colorado College is on that list. I'm pretty familiar with it, since it's nearby and I have friends who graduated from there. Although it's fairly Liberal, it's in a very Conservative community; one of the bigger military communities in the nation, in fact. Field trips and foreign exchanges seem to be fairly common (amongst my friends and acquaintances, at least). Their language program includes "Language Houses"; special dorms which serve as near-total immersion programs for the languages taught at CC. And their block plan (courses are taught one at a time, 2-3 hours a day for 2.5 weeks) requires an ability to knuckle down and WORK; slackers don't do well here, and surviving a technical major requires talent as you don't have long to absorb the information.

Posted by: Michael | Tuesday, August 07, 2007


In the Ender's Game series, it is eventually revealed that the leader wasn't chosen because he was the smartest or the best strategist -- rather, he had the people-skills to get the job done.

This discussion appears to be bleeding over to my post on Mountainrunner's killer robots... [1]

[1] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2007/08/08/for-science.html#c1685219

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Yeah, I noticed the bleedover too.

It's been years since I read Ender's Game, so I can't argue with or against you on that. As I recall, though, the battle school in that book took in kids and looked primarily (though not exclusively) for THE leader in a 3GW war. We're talking an institution taking in adults (so you have more awareness of who you're getting) to train as officers at all levels in multiple warfare generations. While some of the people skills would (and probably are) discovered in process, others could be known in advance. And the better you can get at explicitely teaching those skills, the less chance that the people coming out on top do so by accident, and the better those top people are in all relevant fields of interaction.

Posted by: Michael | Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Good point on Ender. The xenocide was very 3GW. It was impossible to communicate with the other side, and severing the Hive from the Queen (the people from the state) was not on the table.

Would Xenocide, the book, be 5GW? Very manipulative in a way that transcends belief.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I didn't notice the enders stuff. I thas been 15+years since I read it. I never it made it to "Xenocide". I guess it is time to dive in again.

Posted by: PurpleSlog | Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hey Dan,


I thought you might find this statistic interesting. I almost makes me throw out whatever faith in humanity I have.

Posted by: Jeffrey James | Thursday, August 09, 2007


Reemergence for Timbuktu as a center of learning and faith...

Posted by: Eddie | Thursday, August 09, 2007


Hopefully those books can be scanned and put online as quickly as possible, before the Gappish nature of Timbuktu destroys them!


That might take away your faith in man, but this gives me faith in Microsoft: [1]

The "Premium" upgrade and the recent price drop amount to a $130 pricebreak on hdmi xbox 360s. Now for the cooler chips, and Oblivion Game Of The Year Edition...


After Ender's Game, the series breaks off into two directions. The "Speaker for the Dead" trilogy follows Ender and Valentine. Speaker for the Dead / Xenocide / Children of the Mind are philosophical to the point of delving into Mormon polytheology.

The "Ender's Shadow" series follow Bean and Peter, and is much more in keeping with the war- and politics- theme of the first book.

The rumor is that Orson Scott Card is writing a new book that re-integrates the stories, but we'll see...

[1] http://kotaku.com/gaming/confirmed/microsoft-hdmi-coming-to-premium-360s-287542.php

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hmm, I missed Children of the Mind. Or maybe I just forgot about *shrug*

Jeffrey, if your faith in humanity is shaken by a video game manufacturer, could you be said to have had any faith to begin with?*grin*

Posted by: Michael | Thursday, August 09, 2007