We the Living

 Posted by on 29 September 2007 at 11:43 pm  Announcements, Recommendations
Sep 292007

I’m super-excited by the recent announcement from the Ayn Rand Bookstore that the audiobook of Ayn Rand’s We the Living will be available on CD in October. Until now, it’s only been sold on cassette. It’ll be available on both regular CD and MP3 CD. The MP3 CD is just $45, whereas the regular CD is $120.

I love We the Living intensely: Kira is the Randian hero/heroine with whom I most strongly identify — by a long shot. So I’m really looking forward to listening to it.

(I wonder if it will also be available for download via Audible. I hope so!)

Dog Logic Flowchart

 Posted by on 29 September 2007 at 12:08 am  Uncategorized
Sep 292007

This flowchart pretty much speaks for itself. (Click for a larger version.)

(Via Neatorama.)

Good Press

 Posted by on 28 September 2007 at 12:14 pm  Uncategorized
Sep 282007

Two positive articles on Objectivism were published today:

  • Atlas Shrugs Again: Two marketing guys from Forbes discuss the influence of Objectivism give advice on marketing the philosophy. (It’s a fun read.)
  • Ayn Rand fans mark the 50th anniversary of ‘Atlas Shrugged’: Orange County Register publishes an article on the appeal of the novel, including some lengthy comments by Onkar Ghate and some critical (but non-horrible) comments from an English professor.


NYU Education

 Posted by on 28 September 2007 at 8:43 am  Uncategorized
Sep 282007

Overheard at NYU:

Professor: What words do we get from the name Aphrodite?

Student #1: Hermaphrodite.

Professor: Yes — from the union of Aphrodite and Hermes. What else?

Student #2: Aphrodisiac!

Professor: Good! And what is an aphrodisiac?

Students: [Silence.]

Professor: Are you all Victorians? Come on… What’s it called when one uses something to arouse sexual appetite?

Student #3: Necrophiliac! [Class laughs.]

Professor: I have to advise you to invest in a dictionary, as it’s simply prudent to know the difference between a necrophiliac and an aphrodisiac. Hopefully, you won’t ever need to thank me for that.

Ah yes, true higher education in action! (I shouldn’t snark: In my Intro Phil class yesterday, the Paris Hilton South Park episode somehow came up while discussing various informal fallacies.) Here’s some more:

Political philosophy professor after oral surgery: I had a choice to make: I could have stayed home like a happy clam on Percocet, or I could teach class… I miss the Percocet.

–Hunter College

Professor: Don’t get too excited — I’m not putting you into groups. Yeah, I saw you all sitting there, looking around, thinking ‘Which of these fuckers is going to do all of the work?’

–Fordham University

Wow, I soooooo want an “Overheard on Campus.”

The Infidel

 Posted by on 27 September 2007 at 4:09 pm  Uncategorized
Sep 272007

I find comic books and graphic novels too difficult to read: I just can’t mange to alternate between looking at the pictures and reading the text without feeling overstrained. That’s a lamentable deficiency on my part, as I really like the comic-superhero genre.

However, for those in possession of this elementary cognitive ability, the forthcoming graphic novel by ex-Muslim Bosch Fawstin might be of interest. It’s titled “The Infidel.” He describes the basic story as follows: “The Infidel is about American twin brothers from a Muslim background who have absolute opposite responses to 9/11: One becomes a counter-jihad cartoonist and the other becomes a born-again Muslim who goes jihad, and their choices force them to come head to head with one another after their break on 9/11.”

That sounds promising! His blog has more information.

Cooking Again

 Posted by on 27 September 2007 at 7:00 am  Uncategorized
Sep 272007

For a while, probably about a year and a half, I wasn’t doing much cooking. Mostly, I was feeling too busy. This summer, as I got into the habit of finishing all my work during the day rather than putting it off until the evening, I resumed cooking regularly. I’ve continued, even though my schedule has gotten busier.

I enjoy the process of cooking and the pleasure of eating even more than I remember doing in the past. Also, I’ve found that cooking basically eliminates my desire to eat out at restaurants. That’s not surprising, as my cooking is usually as good if not better than what I can order. Happily, that saves us time, money, and calories. (I almost always overeat when I eat out. Plus restaurant food is chock full of calories.)

As usual, I cook from Cook’s Illustrated (a.k.a. America’s Test Kitchen). Last night, I made their Carbonnade a la Flamande (i.e. Belgian beef, beer, and onion stew) served over Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes. It was fantastic!

Thank goodness for leftovers!


 Posted by on 26 September 2007 at 7:24 am  Uncategorized
Sep 262007

My dog Kate recent had a thorough work-up at the vet due to a bunch of unusual and worrisome symptoms, most notably refusal to eat and excessive peeing and drinking. The exam and lab work showed an infected anal gland (totally gross) and a urinary tract infection (probably caused by the nearby grossness). She was clearly feeling better with a few days of antiobiotics. She’s now feeling even better since she finished them. (Antiobiotics always upset her stomach. The vet-recommended Pepcid helped tremendously though.)

However, her x-rays also showed calcification of the kidneys, i.e. nephrocalcinosis. That’s not the same as kidney stones: the calcification is in the meat of the kidney itself. If you look at the image below, you can see the brighter white dots in the kidneys. Those are the calcium deposits. From the front, they look like stripes.

Happily, the x-ray helped us catch this problem in good time, as her lab work isn’t showing any decline in kidney function yet, just elevated calcium levels. So we’ve put her on a new kidney-friendly diet.

So my poor darling Kate has officially hit the decline of old age. She’s always had terrible orthopedic problems, but now she’s showing her age — whatever that is. Her actual age is unknown to us. We adopted her from an animal shelter nearly 8 years ago. She was full grown then, physically and mentally, probably at least three years old. So she must be pretty ancient for a German Shepherd by now.

Happily, she’s super-enthused to accompany me on my twice-a-week trips to Boulder. I’ll take her around campus as I run errands. She won’t go inside buildings, as she’s wary of stairs and hates slippery floors. However, she’s well-behaved off-leash, including in crowds of students on campus. She also seems willing to be tied outside buildings for a time — not a usual activity for her — when I need to go inside.

Often, we stop by the dog park on the way home. At the dog park, she doesn’t run around or play with the other dogs; she’s too aware of her own frailty for that. However, she is keen for a slow tour around the small pond, occasionally saying hello (in the usual doggie way) to the other, younger dogs.

She still looks pretty good for an old lady. This is a picture of her I took this summer with my iPhone.

Oh, one more funny tidbit: Kate is not a morning dog. Without Abby to help rouse her, she doesn’t like to get up right away in the morning. She’ll usually lay in bed until I make the usual noises for feeding, then she’ll ask to go outside. That way she gets fed the moment she comes back inside, just the way she likes it. She’ll often ignore me if I try to rouse her just by calling to ask if she wants to go outside. She’s waiting to hear the clang of the kitty dishes. Then she knows that breakfast is at hand.

In fact, I’m writing the final bits of this post from bed this morning. Kate is still happily conked out, without a care for the fact that Paul got up, showered, and left, that my alarm clock went off three times, and that I’m now awake. Why care about that when you’ve got a nice warm bed in which to sleep?!?

Kate is undoubtedly the easiest dog to live with that I’ve ever known. She aims to fit into the life of the pack without a fuss. She does that exceptionally well.

Nonlethal Pain Generator

 Posted by on 24 September 2007 at 11:45 pm  Uncategorized
Sep 242007

Journalist Michael Hanlon describes what it’s like to be on the wrong end of the US Army’s new nonlethal pain generator:

…It is a bit like touching a red-hot wire, but there is no heat, only the sensation of heat. There is no burn mark or blister.

…When turned on, it emits an invisible, focused beam of radiation — similar to the microwaves in a domestic cooker — that are tuned to a precise frequency to stimulate human nerve endings. It can throw a wave of agony nearly half a mile.

Because the beam penetrates skin only to a depth of 1/64th of an inch, it cannot, says Raytheon, cause visible, permanent injury. But anyone in the beam’s path will feel, over their entire body, the agonising sensation I’ve just felt on my fingertip. The prospect doesn’t bear thinking about.

“I have been in front of the full-sized system and, believe me, you just run. You don’t have time to think about it — you just run,” says George Svitak, a Raytheon executive.

For those who are science fiction fans, this sounds like a real-life version of the neural pain stimulator from Dune. And of course, there’s one more obvious application:

Perhaps the most alarming prospect is that such machines would make efficient torture instruments. They are quick, clean, cheap, easy to use and, most importantly, leave no marks. What would happen if they fell into the hands of unscrupulous nations where torture is not unknown?

The agony the Raytheon gun inflicts is probably equal to anything in a torture chamber — these waves are tuned to a frequency exactly designed to stimulate the pain nerves. I couldn’t hold my finger next to the device for more than a fraction of a second. I could make the pain stop, but what if my finger had been strapped to the machine?

The article includes a picture. (Via Boing Boing.)

How to Prepare for Deployment to Iraq

 Posted by on 24 September 2007 at 7:03 am  Funny
Sep 242007

Funny, in a terrible kind of way:

How to Prepare for a Deployment to Iraq

1. Sleep on a cot in the garage.

2. Replace the garage door with a curtain.

3. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your wife or girlfriend whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, “Sorry, wrong cot.”

4. Renovate your bathroom. Hang a green plastic sheet down from the middle of your bathtub and move the showerhead down to chest level. Keep four inches of soapy cold water on the floor. Stop cleaning the toilet and pee everywhere but in the toilet itself. Leave two to three sheets of toilet paper. Or for best effect, remove it altogether. For a more realistic deployed bathroom experience, stop using your bathroom and use a neighbor’s. Choose a neighbor who lives at least a quarter mile away.

5. When you take showers, wear flip-flops and keep the lights off.

6. Every time there is a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and dump dirt on your head.

7. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it on “HIGH” for that tactical generator smell.

8. Don’t watch TV except for movies in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.

9. Leave a lawnmower running in your living room 24 hours a day for proper noise level.

10. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.

11. Once a week, blow compressed air up through your chimney making sure the wind carries the soot across and on to your neighbor’s house. Laugh at him when he curses you.

12. Buy a trash compactor and only use it once a week. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.

13. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a saltine cracker.

14. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator. Then serve some kind of meat in an unidentifiable sauce poured over noodles. Do this for every meal.

15. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get to the shower as fast as you can. Simulate there is no hot water by running out into your yard and breaking out the garden hose.

16. Once a month, take every major appliance completely apart and put it back together again.

17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for five or six hours before drinking.

18. Invite at least 185 people you don’t really like because of their strange hygiene habits to come and visit for a couple of months. Exchange clothes with them.

19. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.

20. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills of your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.

21. Keep a roll of toilet paper on your night stand and bring it to the bathroom with you. And bring your gun and a flashlight.

22. Go to the bathroom when you just have to pass gas, “just in case.” Every time.

23. Announce to your family that they have mail, have them report to you as you stand outside your open garage door after supper and then say, “Sorry, it’s for the other Smith.”

24. Wash only 15 items of laundry per week. Roll up the semi-wet clean clothes in a ball. Place them in a cloth sack in the corner of the garage where the cat pees. After a week, unroll them and without ironing or removing the mildew, proudly wear them to professional meetings and family gatherings. Pretend you don’t know what you look or smell like. Enthusiastically repeat the process for another week.

25. Go to the worst crime-infested place you can find, go heavily armed, wearing a flak jacket and a Kevlar helmet. Set up shop in a tent in a vacant lot. Announce to the residents that you are there to help them.

26. Eat a single M&M every Sunday and convince yourself it’s for Malaria.

27. Demand each family member be limited to 10 minutes per week for a morale phone call. Enforce this with your teenage daughter.

28. Shoot a few bullet holes in the walls of your home for proper ambiance.

29. Sandbag the floor of your car to protect from mine blasts and fragmentation.

30. While traveling down roads in your car, stop at each overpass and culvert and inspect them for remotely detonated explosives before proceeding.

31. Fire off 50 cherry bombs simultaneously in your driveway at 3:00 a.m. When startled neighbors appear, tell them all is well, you are just registering mortars. Tell them plastic will make an acceptable substitute for their shattered windows.

32. Drink your milk and sodas warm.

33. Spread gravel throughout your house and yard.

34. Make your children clear their Super Soakers in a clearing barrel you placed outside the front door before they come in.

35. Make your family dig a survivability position with overhead cover in the backyard. Complain that the 4x4s are not 8 inches on center and make them rebuild it.

36. Continuously ask your spouse to allow you to go buy an M-Gator.

37. When your 5-year-old asks for a stick of gum, have him find the exact stick and flavor he wants on the Internet and print out the web page. Type up a Form 9 and staple the web page to the back. Submit the paperwork to your spouse for processing. After two weeks, give your son the gum.

38. Announce to your family that the dog is a vector for disease and shoot it. Throw the dog in a burn pit you dug in your neighbor’s back yard.

39. Wait for the coldest/hottest day of the year and announce to your family that there will be no heat/air conditioning that day so you can perform much needed maintenance on the heater/air conditioner. Tell them you are doing this so they won’t get cold/hot.

40. Just when you think you’re ready to resume a normal life, order yourself to repeat this process for another six months to simulate the next deployment you’ve been ordered to support.

#25 is darn revealing, I think.

Suicide Hotlines

 Posted by on 22 September 2007 at 11:30 pm  Uncategorized
Sep 222007

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that volunteer-manned suicide hotlines are plagued by scary levels of incompetence:

The person manning the suicide hot line should have asked a follow-up question about the gun. Yes, the caller had said, he was despondent, and, yes, he mentioned he had considered using a gun to end his life. But that’s where that line of conversation ended – until the phone receiver exploded with the sound of a gunshot.

The caller had a rifle with a string tied to the trigger, rigged to point at his head. The bullet went wide, sparing the man, but a question or two more from the crisis-center representative – such as, do you have a gun with you now? – might have changed the course of events.

The journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior has published a remarkable series of articles on the effectiveness of suicide hot lines, opening a window into the world of desperate people and the volunteers who try to help them get through the night. Two of the unprecedented studies involved eavesdropping on suicide hot-line calls – in which the researchers heard things like that terrifying rifle shot – and two main conclusions came out of the work: One, many crisis-line callers are indeed in suicidal distress (and not just lonely or sad) and they are helped by talking to an empathetic fellow human being. And two, the call centers fail, with alarming regularity, to ask some very basic questions: Are you suicidal? Do you have a plan? Do you have the tools at hand to carry it off? Are you alone and drinking? …

In 723 of 1,431 calls, for example, the helper never got around to asking whether the caller was feeling suicidal.

And when suicidal thoughts were identified, the helpers asked about available means less than half the time. There were more egregious lapses, too: in 72 cases a caller was actually put on hold until he or she hung up. Seventy-six times the helper screamed at, or was rude to, the caller. Four were told they might as well kill themselves. (In one such case, the caller had admitted to compulsively molesting a child.)

There were 33 evident on-line suicide attempts, yet only six rescue efforts, sometimes because the caller ended the communication. In one case, a caller who’d overdosed passed out, yet the helper hung up.

I guess the suicidally depressed could try calling again, in the hopes of hitting on one of the better volunteers. (Apparently, they do exist.) That’s probably not going to happen though, horribly enough.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha