Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Grammar vs. Gain

From the Post:
That slogan [The Democratic Party motto for 2006] -- "Together, America Can Do Better" -- was revived from the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry. [T]here is an effort afoot to drop the word "together." It tests well in focus groups and audiences, Democratic sources said, but it makes the syntax incorrect.

My kind of party!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

For an extended definition of tomorrow

Ashvin reminds me that I was meant to post over a week ago with information about how my qual went. Even if I didn't post the day after the qual, I really should have once the results were announced. Anyway, I passed! Thanks to everyone for the good-luch messages, prayers, special qual lunch on the fateful day, and everything else.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


For my two-and-a-half readers who don't already know this, I'm taking my Ph.D. qualifying exams tomorrow. This has been the main reason excuse I've had for not blogging recently. I'll post again tomorrow with information about how it went.

An Iraq story

Via Andrew Sullivan, I found this MSNBC article on the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's tour of Iraq. I blogged about the 3rd ACR right before they began their tour. Actually, I wrote about its commanding officer, Col. H. R. McMaster, who I always thought was going to be a star.
U.S. military experts conducting an internal review of the three dozen major U.S. brigades, battalions and similar units operating in Iraq in 2005 privately concluded that of all those units, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment performed the best at counterinsurgency.
The regiment's campaign began in Colorado in June 2004, when Col. H. R. McMaster took command and began to train the unit to return to Iraq.
"Every time you treat an Iraqi disrespectfully, you are working for the enemy," McMaster said he told every soldier in his command.
One out of every 10 soldiers received a three-week course in conversational Arabic, so that each small unit would have someone capable of basic exchanges with Iraqis. [McMaster] distributed a lengthy reading list to his officers that included studies of Arab and Iraqi history and most of the classic texts on counterinsurgency.
None of the soldiers from the unit have been charged with abuse during the regiment's current tour in Iraq.

The 3rd ACR was also among the first units to implement a clear-and-hold strategy. It seems to have worked; the city of Tall Afar now has 1400 police officers and 2000 Iraqi troops. The frequency of attacks has declined six-fold, and the townspeople often notify the Americans when they see explosives being planted. Perhaps most telling of all, the city's mayor is begging the 3rd ACR to stay; other American troops will arrive to replace them as they return to the US, but he does not expect the replacements will merit his trust and respect to the same extent.

Incidentally, the only thing preventing the regiment's success from being replicated elsewhere in Iraq is an insufficient number of troops. If Gen. Eric Shinseki's advice had been taken before the invasion, many of the problems Iraq is facing might not exist.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

This is unbelievable

CNN is carrying an article on a study on the 'literacy' of (American) college students. There were three types of skills measured: [the ability to analyze] news stories and other prose, understand documents and [the] math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips. The results were dismal, to say the least. They found that more than 75% and 50% of students at two- and four-year colleges lacked the ability to handle complex, real-life tasks. (Even with a very generous definition of 'complex'.)

Large numbers of students "cannot interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school. Most students... showed intermediate skills. That means they can do moderately challenging tasks, such as identifying a location on a map."

I'm sorry, but identifying a location on a map is an 'intermediate skill' for students about to graduate from college? You would expect an eighth-grader to do that! But wait, there's "brighter news. Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education." If the reporters needed study leaders to tell them that, then clearly it's not just college students who have trouble understanding the results of surveys. (Ok, that was a cheap shot. But still, who on earth would consider that good news?)

Ok, done ranting.
Via Slashdot.