Thursday, July 19, 2007


So I figured I should give a little update on what I am doing here in Army school. We spent last week learning "combatives". That is, we were learning hand-to-hand combat. The point seems to be to take a bunch of people who have little or no experience with actually fighting, and give them a bit of the experience getting punched around and being aggressive. I am pretty sure it didn't work on me. I still do not have an aggressive bone in my body.

We spent this week learning basic rifle marksmanship, and US weapons systems. We all qualified on the M4 rifle. We also used "nightvision" equipment and shot off a bunch of rounds at night. It looks just like it does on CNN, with the greenish hue and flashes of light all over. But they are really neat, especially with the IR laser thingy.

We also used the M16/M203 grenade launcher, the .50 cal machine gun, the MK-19 really big thing that causes a lot of damage, and other weapons.

It is an interesting place. The people here are all good. Most are intelligent thoughtful people, each in their own way. I am learning a lo from them. I managed to get in to an excellent company. We have great staff, and I really seemed to have lucked out.

Nothing is too onerous yet, though there is still quite a bit to go.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Touro College

The fact that Touro College has been selling grades and degrees seems hardly surprising. I wonder if this will start making the school have standards. I'll bet anything that the chilul hashem involved will not cause anyone to change their positive opinion about Touro College.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Review of Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Point

Malcom Gladwell's The Tipping Point is a famous book. It was not a great book, or even a good book, but perhaps a not bad book. Basically he took a bunch of famous and some not so famous incidents that seemed to involve a bunch of people and trends that seemed to emerge, and wrote about them and put them all in to a book, and tried to make a point. The point was that there is a system to understanding the "tipping points". I thought the point fell kid of flat, and was not really well argued. He took the lessons of the hipster Hush Puppie shoes, the sudden drop in crime in NY, the Bernie Goetz incident, the Zimbazrdo prison experiment, the success of Sesame Street and Blue's clues, teenage suicide in Micronesia, and a few other things and claimed that there is a time where trends hit a "tipping point" and they take off. There is also a special kind of people who make it happen, and it can only happen if the message is sufficiently "sticky".

As far as the drop in crime is concerned, I tend to be a fan of Leavitt and Dubner who attributes it to the legalization of abortion. Gladwell did not know of Leavitt and Dubner when he wrote the book, I presume.

Gladwell attributes all these tipping points to mavens, who are enthusiastic about products they are experts on, Connectors, who are really social people who know all sorts of people and Salesmen who love selling good products. These people are responsible for all the big tipping points in history.

There is an interesting example about the rule that 150 people seem to be a maximal community size.

He also has an interesting suggestion about a way to slow down the smoking epidemic that is so sensible that it is certain to never be adopted. He suggests that teens will smoke regardless of what adults do. So instead of trying to stop them from smoking, you should just get them to have too little nicotine so they won't get addicted. There is a reasonable belief that lowering the nicotine levels of cigarettes will stop people from becoming addicted.

As a whole I did not love the book. And while the examples are a mixture of the things everyone knows and some interesting well chosen anecdotes, the thesis of the book is not clear. It attempts to be a social scientific explanation of why some things take off and some don't, I don't see the causal mechanism that accounts for the success of say, the sales of the book The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. To tell me that suddenly mothers started coming to the readings with their daughters, just doesn't explain why it happened, or how it could be reproduced, or it could have been predicted from the nature of the books' audience. . .

It is a quick read, so you wouldn't be wasting too much time figuring out what all the hype was about. Maybe Blink, his other book, is better.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

France's role in the Rwandan genocide

Who would have thought that France had a role in the Rwanda genocide too. But apparently they did and the story just gets better and better.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

4th of July

This is my third military fourth of July. My first was in 2003 in Fort Knox during Basic Combat Training. We didn't do much but pass the time, and we had to watch Black Hawk Down. It was actually not a bad day. In 2004 I was in Advanced Individual Training in Fort Eustis, and I don't have any specific memories of the day, but I seem to recall it sucking. This time around I am on Fort Benning in Basic Officer Leadership Course II, and it is so far not bad. I to sleep in late, though I failed to take advantage and was up at 7:30. I went out with some of my classmates and we watched the Transformers movie, which was silly at times, but not too bad. I hope to attend a barbeque today with some friends in nearby Columbus.

So far school here is going well enough. We're still in the paperwork and briefing phase of the course. Nothing too exciting has happened yet.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I'm here

I arrived in Fort Benning today more or less intact after three days on the road. I signed in, got a room, and I am fairly left alone. have to be at formation tomorrow morning, but otherwise Not much is happening. Fort Benning is rather large and hot. The accommodations are fine. So far so good. It all starts tomorrow.