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The Watcher’s Council has Spoken!

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Very cool! I am the proud recipient of a winning non-member post award from The Watcher’s Council:

Rock Stars and Pariahs

…..There are many trains of thought on this issue and it is one of the challenges that we must consider in light of the changing political landscape of the United States and the nature of the enemy jihadist that doesn’t share the same values as Americans. For a counterinsurgency strategy to succeed we need to get serious about that reality and consider it within the scope of a global jihad. This requires an understanding that we are not simply faced with local insurgency. Our strategy needs to be adjusted within that context in Afghanistan and Iraq. Otherwise we will continue to suffer the unnecessary loss of American life and civilian casualties without realizing the long term goal of winning the war against terror on all fronts.

Here is the full list of contending bloggers in the member and non-member divisions:

Winning Council Submissions

Winning Non-Council Submissions

Thank you to The Watcher’s Council and to Dave Schuler for nominating me!

Cognitive Reflections Part II.

Monday, January 4th, 2010

There have been some thoughtful posts on visual thinking lately which (according to Wikipedia) is the dominant form of thought for 60-70% of the population. I am somewhat skeptical of that unsupported figure because many people report thinking in a combination of words, images and other nonverbal prompts but I can accept that the percentage, whatever it may be precisely, is significant. Here are the posts:

Drs. EideWriting for Visual Thinkers , Mind Over Matter: Imagery at Work and in the Classroom

Dr. VonImportance of Imagery for Memory & Learning


Gerald GrowThe writing problems of visual thinkers

On a related note, a while back, Dave Schuler and I, along with Dave Davison, had some exchanges on “visualcy” that are also worth consideration:

Dave Schuler“I Can Read a Passage in a Book 20 Times and It Doesn’t Click”, More On Visualcy, The Visual Imagery Society, cognitive reliance on visual media:

ZPOn the Virtues and Vices of “Visualcy”, Visualcy and the Human Terrain

Dave DavisonMuralCasting – Improving ROA (Return on attention) -corrected 2.8.08 , Logic + Emotion: Developing an Experience Strategy in 4 Parts, Too many ripples in the pond?

Visual imagery is exceedingly powerful on a neurocognitive level, even with populations that are highly educated and predisposed to think in words and therefore, lends itself well to disinformation, propaganda, IO, advertising and mundane distraction and wastage of time. “Surfing the web” is a visual activity, albeit one that can involve a good deal of reading but ultimately sites like youtube have a definite advantage in attracting and holding attention. Usually to no productive purpose.

On the other hand, I would like to suggest that visual imagery or thinking in pictures is a critical component of insight. We like to use the term “visionary” to describe a trailblazing genius in some field and it is an apt description. Many an empire or artistic acheivement or intellectual discovery was crystalized as a hazy image that served as a template within which many future problems, known and unknown, could be addressed successfully. Or be refined and extrapolated in a tinkering, tweaking manner by trial and error by individuals or groups over time. Imagery can also be a useful starting point for strategic thinking in the form of brainstorming conceptual outcomes.

Furthermore imagery can be used as a “bridge” to improve the comprehension of difficult concepts and make learning more efficient. Dr. Von explains:

….For readers, 60% of 5th graders report naturally using some imagery during ‘think aloud’ breaks in reading stories. It appears to be a natural reaction, even for children, to try and ‘see’ the scenes that words are trying to convey in order to develop memories of a story that we, ourselves, are not part of in reality. Humans are more visual creatures, as I like to tell my own students, and it is important to remind and also teach students how to visualize physical events and experiences. In fact, in problem solving in physics, I try and teach as an essential part of every single problem to draw a picture and mentally ‘see’ what is happening in the problem. We use a technique that requires making pictures and labeling all forces on the picture, and then use the picture to actually set up the math (for F = ma problems). So science and imagery are naturally connected, just as reading, writing and imagery are connected. Memory improves when visualization and imagery are used for stories or for how physical events play out in reality. The experimental finding that a good majority of the brain used for the physical activity is used in imagery, too, begins to explain why this process works.

This is a great example of using imagery as a tool toward a calculated end rather than having imagery overrule or hijack the rational faculties ( which may be the majority of the time when imagery is involved). We should respect the power of visual imagery in cognition when considering the impact on our own thinking but we should not fail to exploit the opportunities the use of imagery can provide.

Dave’s Greatest Speeches

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Actually the speeches that Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye considers the greatest – not speeches made by Dave himself. Though, being an erudite fellow, he probably can give a good speech.

The Greatest Speeches

…..Another reasonable criticism is that some of the speeches, in my view probably anything from before about 1500 CE, are fictional.

But it’s a good, interesting, thought-provoking list that includes George Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, his Gettysburg address, several memorable speeches from Theodore Roosevelt, FDR’s first inaugural speech, several of Churchill’s wartime speeches, Douglas MacArthur’s farewell address, several of John Kennedy’s speeches, and several of Ronald Reagan’s speeches.

Ignoring speeches less than twenty years old which can reasonably be thought not to have withstood the test of time and just off the top of my head, here are several speeches in chronological order that I think are worthy of consideration in a “best” list:

  • Elizabeth I’s Golden Speech
  • Napoleon’s farewell to the Old Guard
  • John Quincy Adams’s speech on the Fourth of July, 1837
  • Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech
  • Garibaldi’s speech of 1860 to the troops
  • Bismarck’s “Blood and Iron” speech
  • Lenin’s speech on the Soviet power
  • Nehru’s “Tryst With Destiny” speech
  • Mao’s speech of June 30, 1949, the 28th anniverary of the Chinese communist party
  • Khrushchev’s “We will bury you” speech

I think Dave’s criticism of the ancient speeches in the Art of Manliness list is reasonable, though saying they are entirely “fictional” might be going too far ( though in some cases that might be true). Real events often become “mythologized” and accrue a thick crust of romanticism but attain a historical staying power because, unlike with pure fiction, there was a real event underneath acting to legitimize the story. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address will probably still be remembered in 2500 AD by someone, even if we Americans have vanished but how they reconstruct it may involve some invented context.


On a humorous note, Schmedlap points to Peter’s Evil Overlord List

… 55)  The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.

Gracias, Watcher’s Council!

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

The Watcher’s Council voted my On Afghanistan and Strategy post the winner of the Non-council member division of their latest ongoing blog competition, for which I say “thank you very much”! I have been nominated a few times in the past but this was the first time I brought home the gold. Thank you also to Dave Schuler for throwing my hat into the ring.

The following distinguished blogs are members of The Watcher’s Council ( membership is selective and fixed, new blogs are added when vacancies arise) and I encourage you to check them out:

Watcher of Weasals

The Glittering Eye
Rhymes With Right
Soccer Dad
The Colossus of Rhodey
Bookworm Room
Wolf Howling
The Razor
Mere Rhetoric
The Provocateur
Right Truth

Blogfriends on the Make

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Galrahn of Information Dissemination was interviewed by James Joyner and Dave Schuler at OTB Radio. The interview is approximately an hour. 

OTB Radio – Tonight at 7 Eastern 

As usual, Dave Schuler will co-host.  We’ll be joined tonight by Raymond Pritchett, who blogs under the pseudonym Galrahn at Information Dissemination and the United States Naval Institute Blog.  We’ll talk about the Somali pirates, the state of the U.S. Navy, and the Tea Party Protests.


Tom Barnett has a muscular op-ed piece up in Esquire Magazine that is making some waves:

Inside the War Against Robert Gates

….When it came to selling that paradigm shift, Gates didn’t need to convince the military itself – the ascendant Army and Marine corps have suffered enough casualties to have learned it the hard way. And quite honestly, Gates needn’t worry about the defense industry’s willingness to follow the money, because Lockheed Martin and L-3 have been snatching up enough blue-chip companies to prove they can spot the Pentagon’s future funding spigots.

Turns out you can find Gates’s biggest antagonists in the halls of Congress, where the battle cry of “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” echoes the military’s growing embrace of funding for the manpower that’ll keep this counter-insurgency movement as successful as it’s become. So even amidst all this fighting and dying – neither of which is likely to slow down any time soon – the American military’s newest struggle seems to come down to one question: whose economic stabilization package matters more?

Read the rest here.

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