Monday, January 30, 2012

In Defense of Critical Thinking

Steve wrote a couple of articles on Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow:

Most of the experiments recounted in Thinking, Fast and Slow aren’t as prima facie silly, but Kahneman, a literal-minded soul, often seems to miss the fundamental point of why his subjects fall for his little hoaxes so often:

“Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure and a passion for detail.

“Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?”

Wrong! Kahneman scoffs at your intuition: “Did it occur to you that there are more than 20 male farmers for each male librarian in the United States?”

Well, no, actually, I didn’t know.  Come to think of it, nor do I know the measured frequency of the traits listed among either farmers or librarians.  Give me that information, and I can calculate the conditional probabilities.  As it is, though, the only correct answer to the question as written is:  insufficient information.

Steve continues:

Did it occur to Kahneman that anybody who isn’t trying to deceive us would have added, “So, Steve’s just not cut out for his life of slopping hogs” or the like? As con men, conjurors, and comedians demonstrated long before Kahneman, most people trust in the speaker’s good faith. They play along and try to guess what is being implied. So it’s easy to pull the rug out from under us.

Yes, but there is still such a thing a critical thinking.  For instance, here is another Kahneman problem from Michael Lewis’ Vanity Fair review that Steve quotes:

“Linda is thirty-one years old, single, outspoken, and very bright,” they wrote. “She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in antinuclear demonstrations.”

Which alternative is more probable?

(1) Linda is a bank teller.
(2) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

The vast majority—roughly 85 percent—of the people they asked opted for No. 2, even though No. 2 is logically impossible. (If No. 2 is true, so is No. 1.)  The human mind is so wedded to stereotypes and so distracted by vivid descriptions that it will seize upon them, even when they defy logic, rather than upon truly relevant facts. Kahneman and Tversky called this logical error the “conjunction fallacy.”

Well said, and I would add that this is exactly the kind of problem that tests use to measure critical thinking skills.  Unfortunately, Kahneman mixes bogus problems like the first in with true logic challenges like the second in an effort to show that stereotypes are worthless.

Thursday, January 26, 2012 reports:

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- The commander of Air Force Special Operations Command presented the Silver Star medal to a combat controller and more than 30 other medals to special tactics Airmen during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 18.

According to the citation, [TSgt Clint] Campbell directed 22 air strikes, including multiple danger close employments, resulting in 13 enemy fighters killed. Without regard for his own safety, he ran 300 meters through a gauntlet of enemy fire and then again exposed himself to enemy fire to mark insurgent positions with a 40 mm smoke grenade. Campbell directed an F-16 Fighting Falcon strafing run to neutralize the threat and enable evacuation of the wounded.

Without detracting from the personal valor of TSgt Campbell, The Air Force should improve its air strike to enemy KIA ratio, or find a better way of killing insurgents, like putting poison darts in paper airplanes or something.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Publick Skewl Lessons

Φ:  “So, did you have a good time in public school today?

Γ2:  “Yes.”

Φ:  “What did you learn?”

Γ2:  "Spanish!”

Φ:  “What Spanish words did you learn?

Γ2:  “Um . . . I forget.”

Φ:  “Well, at least we’re getting our money’s worth.  Have you joined all the right cliques yet?

Mrs. Φ:  [. . .]

Γ2:  “What’s a click?”

Φ:  “A clique is a type of alliance.”

Γ2:  “Uhhhh . . . lyeee . . . “

Φ:  “An alliance is a set of people that cooperate to prevent outsiders from doing mean things to them, and help each other do mean things to outsiders.”

Mrs. Φ:  “Okay, stop it!”

Φ:  “Why?  What part did I get wrong?

Mrs. Φ:  “Well . . . I’m not saying you got it wrong, but . . . you sound like you’re encouraging it.

Φ:  “I shouldn’t encourage our daughter to have allies?  You and I both know what public school is like without them!

Γ2:  “I made friends!  I have six friends now, and four of them are close friends.”

Φ:  “Well, friends are all well and good, but allies are what’s important.”

Mrs. Φ:  “Hey, listen, Mr. Asperger, I bet Γ2 will be way more successful at making friends than you ever were!”

Φ:  “Quite probably!  And she’ll be more successful at making allies, too, for that matter.  I don’t have any practical advice to offer here, I just know the theory.”

Γ1:  “How do you know theory?”

Φ:  “I read stuff on the internet.”

UPDATE: For anyone having problems with the word verification, I turned it off for the time being. Let me know if you have any more problems.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Casino Jack

Thoughts about the faux Jack Abramhoff biopic Casino Jack:

I couldn’t help noticing that the movie shows Emily J. Miller going to the FBI with incriminating information on her fiance Michael Scanlon after she discovers that he’s cheating on her.  In reality, she went to the FBI after he broke off the engagement.

Sometimes reality just doesn’t satisfy feminist sensibilities.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fight the SOPA!

Regular posting will resume tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Putin’s Eulogy for Kim Jong Il

Spotted on Facebook:

Friends, comrades...we are here today to mourn the loss of the Dear Leader.  Nature celebrated his birth with a double rainbow and a new star, and today it even mourns the loss of the Generalissimo with a glowing mountain tribute.

The Jonger accomplished many things in order to satisfy his people.  He was a ferocious cinephile.  He believed in the power of the silver screen so much that he "persuaded" foreign filmmakers to come to Best Korea and create such inspirational films as "Sea of Blood" and "Team

When Kim's people were facing one of the most horrific famines in Best Korean history-brought on by those American imperialist pig-dogs-the Dear Leader took it upon himself to invent the most delicious culinary concoction he brilliantly dubbed "double bread with meat."  This of course was stolen by those Golden Arch-Enemy capitalist thugs.

Sometimes people ask me "Hey, Putin, what was Kim like---I mean really like?" Well that's a tough question. I mean, how does one explain the brightness of the sun, the feeling of a warm summer wind on their skin or the look of wonder in the eyes of a young child? Words are such clumsy, imprecise tools. So when asked what Kim (or K-Jong as I affectionately called him) was really like, I like to tell people a little story. Back in that magical summer of 1996, I was spending some time in most excellent Best Korea interning as a film student under the tutelage of Master Il. One day, after many long hours of extreme mental and physical exertion, we were strolling back from the film site through one of those windy and ancient country roads just brimming with joyous plants and wildlife, of the type you only find in Best Korea. There were a couple clouds blocking out the sun, save for a little crack that allowed a few strands of golden light to stream through. Kim pointed up at the sky and said to me "Look, Pooty (as he sometimes called me), and look well, for we are looking at the very hand of God, my father, Kim Il Sung--the eternal president! May He love my country as I love it." I looked and then I looked at him. His lips were trembling and I saw a single tear roll down his cheek. They say that Kim Jong-Il was too strong to ever cry, but on that day I realized he was too strong not to cry, for the joy and love he held in his heart for Best Korea was immeasurable. May he live on in his accomplishments and the hearts of his people. May they sing songs of his fabled deeds until the end of time!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Destroying American Jobs, One Government Contract at a Time

From the Wichita Eagle:

Hawker requests GAO review of Air Force deal

Hawker Beechcraft said Tuesday that it is requesting the Government Accountability Office review the Air Force’s move to exclude it from the bidding process for a Light Air Support aircraft.

Hawker Beechcraft offered the Air Force its AT-6, based on the company’s T-6 trainer. It was up against Brazil-based Embraer’s Super Tucano military aircraft. The AT-6 turboprop is designed for counterinsurgency, close air support, armed overwatch, and homeland defense and security.

Hawker Beechcraft has said that winning the contract – which was expected to have been awarded at the end of October – would keep its T-6 production line operating beyond 2015.

About 1,400 employees in 20 states – including 800 in Wichita – work on the AT-6 and T-6 programs. The number includes how many people work on the programs at Hawker Beechcraft and its U.S. suppliers and partners.

A Time for Choosing answers the question, que bono?

The Obama regime sure seems to favor Brazil for some reason. It may be the fact Obama’s boss, George Soros, has many investments there. As we know, Obama gave the Soros owned Brazilian oil giant Petrobas $10 billion a couple years back, just days after Soros bought controlling interest in the company.

Whitney Pitcher found more about the connection between Petrobas, and Obama’s repeated efforts to stifle American oil exploration. Obama has told the Brazilian leaders he wants America to be their best customer for oil.

Doing some research it seems George Soros has a connection to Embraer through Harbin-Embraer Aircraft a Chinese-Brazilian joint venture, and Hainan Airlines, which Soros owns a significant stake in.

Also, read RedState’s look into the Iran connection.

So basically, Obama is taking jobs from American workers for the benefit of lefty financier and America’s enemies.

All in a day’s work.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Rushing the “New People” Election

From NumbersUSA:

Report Reveals Senior Officials Pressuring Officers to Rush Immigrant Visas- Despite Fraud

Top Officials within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are pressuring rank-and-file officers to quickly approve immigrants' visa applications, sometimes against the officers' will, according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General.

The report details the immense pressure immigration service officers are under to rubber-stamp visa applications, sometimes while overlooking concerns about fraud, eligibility or security.

One-quarter of the 254 officers surveyed said they have been pressured to approve questionable cases, sometimes "against their will".

Senior USCIS officials said the pressure has heightened after the Obama administration appointed Alejandro Mayorkas as director in 2009, who brought the mantra "get to yes" to the agency.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

“A Scotsman walks into a bordello . . .”

On Ilkka’s recommendation (kind of), I watched the movie Welcome to the Rileys.  To recap:  a middle-aged couple whose daughter had been killed in a car accident attempt to reform a teenaged prostitute in New Orleans.

The movie makes a nod toward illustrating what a wretched creature a teenaged prostitute would actually be . . . though I hasten to add:  only a nod.  This is, after all, Kristen Stewart, whereas in real life (or at least the version as represented on HBO documentaries) retail sex workers are for the most part gross and disgusting.  But here we see Stewart’s prostitute ignorant of what should be common knowledge, like what a UTI is or how to open a checking account.

Through an barely plausible set of events, Riley meets Stewart in the strip club /bordello where she plies her trade.  Now, I guess if I had thought about it, I would have assumed that strip clubs are organized as to extract the maximum amount of money possible out of its clientele.  But the movie shows how this works in practice:  the client is offered a private lap dance.  But then you have to pay for the room.  And the room requires a bottle of house champagne.  And everything requires a tip.  And then you negotiate any, um, special services.  Etcetera.

I’m an unlikely patron of the sex trade, but even if I wasn’t, I couldn’t help but be irritated by all this for them same reason I’m irritated by Celebration Cruise Lines:  I want and expect price transparency for my purchases.  Not bait-and-switch or nickel-and-diming.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Things I Learned at Drug Testing

I failed my drug test. The results came back "negative dilute", which means that they didn't find anything bad but the concentration didn't meet spec. So all that advice about how healthy it is to drink lots of water gets complicated when it's time to pee-in-the-bottle. The drug testers were noncommital on whether or not over-hydrating would actually hide drug use, but even people who submit samples judged "positive dilute" are given the opportunity to retest. In my case, the second time through I drank no water that morning, only coffee. That seemed to do the trick. In other news, it turns out that Civil Service drug tests give you privacy. Military drug testers are required to observe the sample leave your person. (I have no idea how this works for women.)