Questions on Art Preferences

 Posted by on 20 August 2010 at 12:00 pm  FormSpring, Literature, Personal, Television
Aug 202010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on personal preferences in art:

What is your favourite classic novel, outside of Rand?

It’s hard to name one, so here’s a few, in some rough order:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • The Sea Wolf by Jack London
  • Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I love classic fiction, and I read a great deal of it, but I’m not nearly as widely read as I’d like to be.

Which TV shows do you watch?

Some of these shows are no longer running, but we’re still watching them on DVD.

  • The Unit
  • Burn Notice
  • Psych
  • South Park
  • The Office
  • Inside the NFL

Of all of them, I like The Unit the best… perhaps even more than Firefly.

Do you like Rush? Why or why not?

No. It’s too hard rock for me. My tastes run more to pop. (Go Mika!) I can’t stand to listen to more than a few seconds of it.

Silly Questions with Silly Answers

 Posted by on 13 August 2010 at 1:00 pm  FormSpring, Fun
Aug 132010

Some very silly FormSpring Questions and Answers:

Being an Objectivist who is able to apply the law of causality to just about everything in the world, and therefore very wise, do you sometimes feel like you’re from the future, or 1000 years old?

Yes, I am a god! I’m nearly omniscient! Have I mentioned that I can levitate sheep too?

(Seriously: I’m not wise, let alone “very wise.”)

GLOCK 21 or M1911?

I like my 1911, but I love my Glocks.

9mm or 45 ACP?

Ah, what an absurd question! 9 mm is for little girls in pink dresses.

What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?

Undoubtedly, a good steak. Lamb chops will also do. Chicken is overrated.


Because existence exists.

Why should one be moral in a world or immorality?

Please try again, preferably grammatically.

You notice how every pop star tries to cross over and become a movie star? Don’t you hate that?


what does is 4+5=

A dumb question.

How did Columbus manage to fit two of every species of animal aboard the Mayflower?

By magic, of course!

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

I’m quite certain that if I were a tree, (1) I wouldn’t be me and (2) I wouldn’t be able to choose what kind of tree I was.

Would you rather be Satan’s slave or a Cheese-slave?

I’d prefer to be Satan’s slave. Satan doesn’t exist, so being Satan’s slave means being no one’s slave. Cheese exists, so I would be a slave to something if I were a slave to cheese.

If you had to give up one or the other, which would it be: your housekeeper, or meat? :)

The housekeeper, definitely. Paul’s pretty good at vacuuming, but I don’t think he’d be very tasty.

Which are cuter: Puppies, kittens, or human babies? by SupaTrey

I’ll have go with kittens because they’re so very scampery and naughty… but with purring!

Doth the lady protest too much?


Questions on My Plans

 Posted by on 13 August 2010 at 7:00 am  FormSpring, Personal
Aug 132010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on my plans:

when/are you planning to teach philosophy at a university? Where? Etc.

Right now, I don’t imagine that I’ll ever return to academia… but maybe I’ll change my mind in 15 years or so.

Have you set your five-year goals that you mentioned back in January was on your to-do list? If you have, would you be willing to share them? If you haven’t, why?

I haven’t done it yet. I’m still struggling to make up for time lost while I was a half-corpse due to hypothyroidism. Plus, I’m seriously rethinking the best means to achieve my ends career-wise. [That's a bit outdated, but I've still not done my five year plan. My projects are so experimental right now that I've got trouble imagining even where I could be. Still, I think I should do it.]

However, I did set my major goals for 2010, and I’ve set up OmniFocus with three to five goals for each day, week, and month too. That’s been super-helpful in keeping me on-track. [These days, I'm using Teux Deux to track my major daily goals. That works better than the kludge I set up in OmniFocus. My full range of task planning and tracking still happens in OmniFocus though.]

My worst fear in the whole world is that your Atlas Shrugged podcasts will remain free … until the last one, for which you’ll charge $10,000 to download the MP3 … and I won’t be able to refuse, and I’ll lose my car and my house. Tell me it ain’t so!

It ain’t so! [... but I love the idea!]

When can we look forward to more Philofiles? I’m dying to know more arguments for why God doesn’t exist! (pun intended)

Thanks! Once I’m done the “Explore Atlas Shrugged” podcasts. Those — plus some other projects — are just taking up too much of my time right now. I am eager to get back to PhiloFiles though!

Is your PhD dissertation available on-line yet for others to read? If so, where? If not, do you plan to make it available (and when)?

It’s not yet available online, but I will post it sometime this spring. [Uh, okay, sometime this fall!]

Questions on Life Chez Hsieh

 Posted by on 23 July 2010 at 1:00 pm  FormSpring, Love/Sex, Personal
Jul 232010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on my life chez Hsieh:

How many prospective husbands did you have to reject before you found one who both took ideas seriously and respected your insistence on doing so?

I had two longer-term boyfriends before Paul and I began dating. My incompatibility with them was more about temperament than intellect.

Does keeping the passion alive between you and Paul come naturally for you, or does it take concentrated effort?

I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive.

Paul and I don’t “work on our relationship.” We’re in agreement that that’s pretty much bullshit. We talk about issues as needed, but we get along so well that those conversations are short, sweet, and to the point — and rare.

However, we’re super-busy with our projects, such that we work at night and on weekends more often than not. So sometimes we have to carve out time from our projects to simply enjoy spending time together. I’m not talking just about sex, but even just time snuggling on the sofa or taking a walk or something. However, once we carve out the time, the activity in question … uh… “comes naturally.”

Did you and Paul explicitly decide to not have children?

Yes. I was more interested in kids, although ambivalent about taking the required time away from my career. However, Paul was totally opposed to kids. I’d much rather have him than kids, so I stuck with him!

Since you and Paul do not want children, would you two consider having a robot as a pet or a great helper doing tedious chores in your house?

I would love an army of servants… or robots. I’d hire a person just to do my one to two loads of laundry per week … and to make the kefir and set out my vitamins and pick up my dirty clothes off the floor and clean out my closets and wipe the mud off the dog and buy groceries and do the weekly finances and clean the goo off my mouse and refill the bird feeders and cut up raw meat for the beasts and de-worm the horses and water the trees and manage house repairs and …

Need I go on? I hate chores with a passion.

[One of these days, I'll answer the questions about how Paul and I met and married. It's a somewhat long story, so perhaps I should make it into a podcast.]

Questions on Atlas Shrugged

 Posted by on 14 July 2010 at 12:00 pm  Food, FormSpring, Fun, Objectivism
Jul 142010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on Atlas Shrugged pertaining to food:

If you could meet one Atlas Shrugged character in real life, who would it be?

Midas Mulligan, so that I could lecture him about wheat not being suitable for human consumption! (He’s the wheat farmer in the valley.)

Hank Rearden has always been my favorite character in “Atlas Shrugged,” but I refuse to imagine him blond. Despite what Ayn Rand says, he has brown hair! I’m also quite fond of Ellis Wyatt.

If the world became akin to Atlas Shrugged and a group of Objectivists retreated to Shea’s hidden valley, would you accept the role of swine farmer to supply the town with delicious capitalist bacon?

Totally. I’d put all the other pig farmers out of business in a jiffy, then I’d expand to lambs and steer.

My horse Tara wouldn’t be happy though, as she’s not too keen on pigs!

And since you’ll be queen of delicious capitalist bacon, you’ll sell pig pancreas as a side business for insulin, yes? by rationaljenn

Oh yes — and desiccated porcine thyroid too! I’ll be running “Bertha’s Pharmacy” on the side.

(Bertha was the name of a pig we had growing up. She got big… and then she got eaten!)

Questions on Academia

 Posted by on 9 July 2010 at 7:00 am  Academia, FormSpring
Jul 092010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on academia:

Congrats, you’ve earned a phd, now i’d like to ask: Couldn’t you have gained the same level of understanding by simply reading a series of books and performing exercises in said books with out interacting with professors and paying exorbitantly high fees?

In some respects, I could have learned far more on my own. I could have spent more time reading classic texts, for example.

However, some aspects of philosophy are part of an oral tradition, so that I definitely benefited from classes. Part of that oral tradition is methodology; that’s a mixed bag. More important is knowing the seminal texts and standard interpretations thereof. You can’t rely on secondary sources for that, as they almost always suck. Also, I had to take classes to get feedback from professors in class and on papers. Undoubtedly, I matured as a philosopher because of that.

Also, you don’t have “exercises” in philosophy books like you would in mathematics. You read, talk, and then write papers. You need guidance and feedback from a knowledgeable person on that. You can’t check your answers in the back of the text.

Also, graduate school was cheap for me, because CU Boulder is a state school. Mostly though, I paid no tuition because I was working as a TA, instructor, or on fellowship. (That’s standard.)

Was changing careers and getting the degree worth it? Would you recommend it to someone else?

It was definitely worth it to me, but the process was also grueling like nothing else I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else without knowing the particulars of their situation.

Were you surprised by the other academics you discovered at College? I went in expecting them all to be monsters, and while most hold (to some degree or another) laughable beliefs, they were friendly, engaging people, willing to listen to a good argument.

Yes, I liked most of my professors in grad school, as well as the graduate students. (Some of the die-hard feminists were an exception.) I was somewhat surprised by that, but not entirely, as my undergraduate experience in philosophy at WashU was quite good too.

Based on your knowledge and experience, would it be possible for a student to bypass formal undergraduacy and apply directly to a graduate program, assuming he had all of the intellectual capacities to do so, and have a chance in hell of being accepted?

He would have no chance of being accepted. If a person is that smart and super-educated, he should be able to skip grades of high school, as well as years of college. By doing that, he could enter graduate school at age 18 or so.

Questions on Philosophy

 Posted by on 5 July 2010 at 7:00 am  FormSpring, Philosophy
Jul 052010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on philosophy:

Would you agree with the Ancient Greek notion of the Dialectic, the idea that the only way to really grasp knowledge (at least of philosophy) is by a process of Dialectic intercourse?

No. (Dialectic is a somewhat fuzzy notion, but I’ll take you to mean that good philosophy requires discussion of those ideas with other people.)

Discussion is often helpful in philosophy, as with other intellectual work. However, the most crucial need is to put your ideas into some objective form, such as by writing them down. That also happens in discussing ideas with other people, with some other lesser benefits (and costs) too. That’s why discussion with other people is often so helpful to us. Still, it’s not the only means to the end, nor always the best.

Personally, I like to mostly write, then discuss when I hit some tricky part that I can’t quite sort out in my own head. Normally, Paul is my victim … er, the lucky man. I wasn’t able to use him in that way with my dissertation though. He wasn’t following my work, and my problems were simply too intricate for him to examine without tons of background context. So I did that whole work almost entirely alone, except with some occasional input from my advisor.

Now that I think about it … perhaps the ancients were such advocates of discussion because they weren’t able to write so easily as we are. For them, discussion might have been the best way making ideas objective during the process of refining and clarifying them. That’s pure speculation, of course. Maybe I’ll ask Robert Mayhew or John Lewis about that.

What is your opinion of Robert Kane from an objectivist perpsective?

I’ve read some of Robert Kane’s work, but not a ton.

My basic view is that he’s wrong about indeterminacy as the foundation of free will, but that he’s honestly trying to defend the fact of free will. Given the compatibilist nonsense that so fashionable in metaphysics these days, I appreciate that! Plus, if I recall correctly, some of his critiques of compatibilism and determinism are pretty good. Oh, and he’s a clear writer. That’s a huge bonus.

Do you expect that Harry Binswanger’s upcoming book is going to finally put the philosophy of mind issue to rest?

No. Like Leonard Peikoff, I don’t think that philosophy can give definitive answers to most of the thorny issues raised in philosophy of mind. At most, philosophy can rule out some false views, such as materialism or substance dualism.

[In the Facebook comments, a philosopher I know posted the following useful remarks:

a) Dr. Binswanger's book isn't really about philosophy of mind--it's about epistemology--so the main reason not to expect much from it on this topic is simply because it's not his focus. But, by the way, the few places where he does deal with "philosophy of mind" issues are, I think, clarifying and on the whole good.

b) If philosophy can't give answers to thorny issues raised by philosophy of mind, then those issues are of course not really philosophical issues, but scientific ones. Here I imagine you mean questions about what is the precise nature of the interaction between the body and the mind. I agree that this is not a philosophic question, but a scientific one. But in my study of contemporary philosophy of mind (of which I did a fair amount for my dissertation), most of the issues I encountered were philosophical. In my opinion, most contemporary philosophers of mind have distinctively philosophic confusions about the relationship between philosophy and science, especially about the role of science in understanding metaphysics. Just in case anyone's interested, I comment extensively on this topic in chapter 3 of my dissertation.

I'm glad to hear about (a) and I agree with (b).]

Why is measurement omission a necessary part of concept formation? If the first step is to group things by similarities, and the measurements are *not similar*, then aren’t the measurements already omitted by default? Why have a whole separate step?

What makes two things similar but not identical is a difference in measurements. So to see them as similar requires (implicitly) omitting measurements, and then that’s captured in the formation of the concept.

Questions on Food

 Posted by on 26 June 2010 at 7:00 am  Food, FormSpring
Jun 262010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers with advice on food:

What kinds of portable, Paleo-friendly snacks do you like to eat?

Cheese, nuts, and kefir used to be my staples on the road, but I’m seriously cutting down on those lately. Another option that I often use is to cut up cubes of uncured ham. Hard boiled eggs are also pretty handy, particularly if peeled in advance.

However, more often than not, I simply don’t eat when I’m out and about. Or I will make a genuine meal — like the chicken, tomato, and cucumber salad that I threw together for myself on Tuesday.

Mostly though, I stay at home and I eat at home. I have to run errands in Denver on Wednesday afternoon. (That’s when I do all my grocery shopping for the week, plus I pick up my raw milk.) I have the Atlas Shrugged Reading Group on Thursday evenings… but just for a few more weeks. And I usually have some FRO meeting over the weekend. If I could reduce those excursions to just one per week, I’d be thrilled. That doesn’t seem likely to happen, however.

I love eating meats and green leafy vegatables, but should I reconsider eating nuts? You know peanuts; cashews; walnuts; pecans; almonds; brazil nuts; hazelnuts; etc.

(Peanuts aren’t nuts; they’re legumes.) I eat nuts periodically, but some have really high omega-6 content. See this page for a breakdown. Macadamias are the best; walnuts are the worst.

Can you recommend a fat for cooking which can be purchased at any regular grocery store? Besides butter?

Bacon grease! Make bacon, pour the grease into a small glass jar. Store it in the fridge. Use it liberally for cooking meats and veggies. It will stay good for at least a month or two, if not longer.

I use that, plus butter and coconut oil for almost all my “fat for cooking” needs.

We just started a paleo-type diet and the only problem so far is that my fiancee is ALWAYS hungry. He works a very physical job and likes to “graze”, not eat big meals. Any suggestions on filling paleo snacks besides nuts and jerky?

How about heavy cream or cheese? Most people can tolerate dairy in that form. It’s got a ton of calories, and it definitely satisfies hunger. And it’s yummy! In general, I would imagine that your man needs something fatty.

By the way, Costco is a great place to buy cheese and cream. You get vast quantities for cheap.

I’ve read that “low and slow” is the “right way” to cook paleo food…but it also seems to make sense to cook food over an open fire (i.e. BBQ). Is there any evidence that this is true/not true?

I have not the slightest clue.

In general, however, most cooking methods probably have some health costs and some health benefits. My strategy is to forgo the methods with major health costs (like frying in modern vegetable oils), then vary between the other methods.

Questions on My Diet

 Posted by on 19 June 2010 at 7:00 am  Food, FormSpring, Personal
Jun 192010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on my experiences and preferences with paleo eating:

What piece of scientific evidence was the most convincing to you when you decided to go Paleo?

The whole of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, in conjunction with the fact that I looked and felt so much better as I switched to a paleo diet.

I’m interested in your experience with the Paleo diet. Aside from potential long-term health benefits, did you notice immediate short term benefits of eating paleo?

Yes. Within the first month:

I had more energy. I wasn’t ever faint with hunger. I could skip meals if I wanted to do that. I wasn’t beholden to the cookies and other sweets in the pantry. I lost weight that I’d spent years trying to shed. I found my food deeply satisfying. Even when I ate tons, I never had that sickening overfull feeling that most people accept as normal. I enjoyed a wider variety of foods. I cooked more often, but spent less time doing it.

Is that enough?

Bacon or sausage?

Bacon, although I eat lots of uncured keilbasa and bratwurst because it’s easier to make than bacon.

If someone were to buy you a cocktail, what would it be? Why? How do you make it? by SupaTrey

I’d probably most like a mojito without sugar. (I don’t know how to make those, but I should look that up, as I have a ton of mint in my herb garden.) Or a glass of white wine, provided that it’s not Chardonnay.

Oddly though, I’ve done almost no drinking these past few months. That might be due to the hypothyroidism: my system is still somewhat depressed, so I don’t need alcohol to take the edge off. I have no edge! BooHoo! [Update: Even now that I'm feeling great, I still have little interest in drinking. Maybe I'm not stressed enough to need it to relax?]

As for the “why,” I couldn’t tell you why I like the drinks that I do. I can tell you some of what I don’t like, however. I don’t want anything with lots of sugar or very sweet, as that doesn’t do the body good. I’m cautious about red wine, as that’s the only alcohol that gives me hangovers. Oh, and I’m leery of vodka martinis. That’s a story for an in-person chat sometime though.

Do you know roughly how many carbs you eat in a day? If so, how much? How has that level evolved for you over the course of eating paleo? by nine9s

Although I keep a rough food journal, I’ve only ever counted my macronutrients once. I reported on that here.

At that time, I was eating about 20% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 55% fat.

I’m not sure whether I eat more or less carbs now. I suspect that I eat less on some days and more on others.

[Update: Back in March, I counted macronutriets as part of a very-low-carb elimination diet, to try to determine the source of my GI problems. The problem was the magnesium, I discovered, not any particular food. I've since returned to my normal diet of about 50 g of carbs per day. I've got some thoughts on calorie counting -- and how it screws with a person's food choices -- that I'd like to write up soon.]

Questions on Riding Horses

 Posted by on 8 June 2010 at 1:00 pm  Animals, FormSpring, Personal
Jun 082010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on riding horses:

English or Western?

English. I haven’t ridden western since I was about five years old. I love to jump, although I haven’t been able to do that with Tara due to her age. However, I do like a horse with some western training. When I buy a horse this summer, I’ll probably be looking for a Quarter Horse. Thoroughbreds are athletic, but they run a bit hot for me.

How long have you had horses and did you ever compete? If in what? by KendallJust

I’ve had horses all my life. I was riding from before I can remember.

When I was young, everyone in my family rode. My first pony was 12.2 hand a Shetland hand-me-down from my two sisters. He was a total brat by the time I got him. (Ponies get wise — and thus disobedient — with age.) Simon would run away with me, cross the stream in the pasture, stick his head in the grass, and refuse to get back to work. He dumped me off him more times than I can remember; it was pretty much a daily occurrence. When he was naughty, I used to get off him, stand in front of his nose, and lecture him sternly. (My mom has some great pictures of me doing that!)

As a kid, I competed in Pony Club events; I got up a C3 level. I also did hunter shows throughout my childhood, albeit just on the local level.

I most enjoyed trail riding and foxhunting with my mother. (In foxhunting, the fox is just chased, almost never killed in the US. We don’t have the population to support killing foxes, as they do in the UK.) Fox hunting is a strange combination of hidebound tradition (e.g. in dress and manners) and wild riding (e.g. galloping through rocky hilly trails and jumping 3′ coops). I did that all four years in high school, with my trusty horse Paint. He was a 16.2 hand pinto. With his western coloring, he stood out on the hunt field!

Right now, I’m just doing trail riding for pleasure, because I just don’t have time for anything more. If I was to do anything serious again, I’d like to foxhunt again… or rather, coyotehunt, as they do here in Colorado.

I wish that I had my mother to ride with, though!

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