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Notes after New York

September 30, 2008

Just got back from the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society conference in New York City. The conference hotel was in Times Square, and it was hopping! New York is an amazing place. I think most of the tourists were from other countries – taking advantage of the de-valued dollar as it tanks even more after the current financial fiasco…
I was very surprised to hear Dave say that any area of the US has better public transit than the UK. Usually we are worse than anyone else in that respect. The SF Bay Area (including San Jose) is an exception, as is New York City, and maybe Boston and Washington DC. I take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to campus and love it. What we need in the US is more rail transport – our train system is very old and most passenger trains share tracks with freight trains. Maybe now that gas prices are becoming comparable to European prices we will see more people demanding better rail transportation.
I got several comments on the ‘signifying political rhetoric’ entry and they made me realize that having a good story is essential for candidates. Ronald Reagan was a master of this – although he didn’t always make clear (if he himself knew for sure) whether the story was part of his life or one of his movie roles! A colleague did a study in the 1980’s looking at the cognitive complexity of US Presidents’ speeches, and found that Reagan was the least complex of all that he analyzed. And he was known as the ‘Great Communicator.’ Ironic.

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Cognitive Complexity

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