The Next 3 OCONs

 Posted by on 30 June 2008 at 10:34 pm  ARI, OCON
Jun 302008

Yaron Brook announced the dates and locations for the next three OCON conferences:

2009: July 3-11, Boston, MA, Seaport Hotel
2010: July 2-10, Las Vegas, NV, Red Rock Resort
2011: July 1-9, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Marriott Harbor Beach Resort

Jun 302008

Here are some more highlights from the second day of the Ayn Rand Institute’s summer conference (a.k.a. OCON).

Lin Zinser on “Health-Care Activism: Saving the Life Savers,” Class 2 of 3:

Today, Lin discussed some strategies for successful activism, connecting those lessons to her own experience with FIRM. (Some of her stories would be very surprising to most people — in a good way.)

Robert Mayhew on “Thales and the Birth of Philosophy in Ancient Greece”:

This lecture was a fascinating discussion of the birth of philosophy, particularly the radical departure from primitive supernaturalism that began with Thales in ancient Greece. Thales inaugurated the study of philosophy as an explicit discipline on the basis of observation and rational argument — as opposed to relying on traditional myths to explain natural phenomena. Mayhew clearly showed the radical differences between the methods of Thales and those of thinkers in other cultures at the time. Mayhew also traced the unique factors in ancient Greek culture that made possible (but not necessary) the development of explicit philosophy.

I particularly enjoyed the lessons for the prospects for Objectivism at the end of the lecture.

(The lecture was related to Dr. Mayhew’s essay criticizing Robert Tracinski’s analysis of the role of philosophy in history, posted to NoodleFood in January 2007.)

Pat Corvini: “Two, Three, Four, and All That: The Sequel,” Class 1 of 3:

This course examines three modern ideas in mathematics: (1) equivalent sets, (2) the postulational method, and (3) the continuum and actual infinities. Today, Pat explained the basics of Cantor’s arguments about comparisons of sets, with a few hints of the criticisms to come. (I remembered that somewhat fuzzily from my undergraduate course in philosophy of mathematics.) Tomorrow and the next day, she’ll lay out the standard the postulational method, and then discuss the Objectivist approach to these topics. (Very cool!)

This course is a sequel to her excellent course of last year: Two, Three, Four, and All That.

That’s all for today!

Highlights from OCON: Day 1 Addendum

 Posted by on 30 June 2008 at 7:12 am  ARI, OCON
Jun 302008

In my first report on OCON yesterday, I forgot to mention that OCON is huge again: over 400 people are attending. The sheer number of people I don’t know is rather overwhelming.

By way of context, last year, over 500 people attended for the 50th anniversary of celebration of Atlas Shrugged in Telluride. Before than, around 300 was average. So it seems that the conference has experienced more than just a transient increase in size over the past two years.

Highlights from OCON: Day 1

 Posted by on 29 June 2008 at 10:50 pm  ARI, OCON
Jun 292008

I’m attending the Ayn Rand Institute’s summer conference (a.k.a. OCON this week. So in lieu of regular blogging, I thought I’d try to post a few brief highlights each day.

Lin Zinser on “Health-Care Activism: Saving the Life Savers,” Class 1 of 3:

  • An excellent first class. Inspiring review of the accomplishments of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM). Fascinating discussion of the rise, fall, and rise of state laws licensing doctors to practice medicine.

  • Kind of Activism: Intellectual activism means changing the ideas of honest, intellectually active people. Political activism means directing your legislators on how to vote. Political activism is not primary: the real change must be in the culture.

Yaron Brook on “Cultural Movements: Creating Change,” Lecture 1 of 3:

  • A fascinating overview of the successes and failures of the economic defense of free markets from the 1960s to the 1990s and the environmental movement from the 1970s to today. (I’m eager to hear the rest of these lectures! They’ll definitely be worth buying.)

… drumroll please …

Yaron Brook on “State of ARI”:

These are just a few highlights:

  • ARI has shipped 1.1 million books as part of the “Free Books for Teachers” program. So if the books have a lifespan of four to five years, then four to five million students are reading Ayn Rand’s novels in their English classes. By the end of the decade, over seven million kids will have read Ayn Rand.

  • BB&T has funded 38 programs in the southeast US for the study of capitalism and philosophy.
  • DC Office will be opened with four staff members just five blocks from the White House in August.
  • Yowza! An anonymous donor donated one million and one dollars just this afternoon. That’s ARI’s largest single donation ever — by a dollar. So ARI’s projected revenues for 2008 will be nine million dollars.

That’s all for now!

Further Reports on OCON:

  • Highlights from OCON: Day 1 Addendum
  • Highlights from OCON: Day 2
  • The Next 3 OCONs
  • Highlights from OCON: Day 3
  • Highlights from OCON: Day 4
  • OCON: Q&A Session with Leonard Peikoff
  • Highlights from OCON: Day 5

Sunday Open Thread #3

 Posted by on 29 June 2008 at 7:15 am  Open Thread
Jun 292008

Here’s yet another Sunday Open Thread for your enjoyment:

For anyone in the fiery grip of a random question, comment, joke, or link they’d like to share with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. (Please refrain from posting personal attacks, pornographic material, and commercial solicitations.)

The Schedule

 Posted by on 28 June 2008 at 11:41 pm  NoodleFood
Jun 282008

NoodleFood will be on a reduced schedule of just a post (and maybe two) per day over the next week.

Yes, yes, I know, life is hard.

George Carlin on Religion

 Posted by on 28 June 2008 at 1:07 am  Funny, Religion
Jun 282008

The recently-departed George Carlin on religion:

Very funny! And smart!

How To Work From Bed

 Posted by on 27 June 2008 at 1:20 pm  Advice, Productivity
Jun 272008

This list of “70+ Tools, Tips and Hacks To Work From Bed” looks pretty useful.

I’m not necessarily saying that this applies to anyone I know.

(Via BBspot.)

The Dependent Life

 Posted by on 27 June 2008 at 12:20 pm  Ethics
Jun 272008

Some months ago, I needed to photocopy Stanley Milgram’s “The Perils of Obedience,” a popular article on his famous experiments on authority published in the December 1973 issue of Harpers. (Note to self: blog about that soon!) As I was doing that, I noticed the following quote, excerpted from Philip Slater’s book The Pursuit of Loneliness, in the “wraparound” section. I was so struck by its evil that I photocopied the page, in the hopes of blogging it. I forgot about it — until I found the photocopied page a few days ago while cleaning out my desk. So, at long last, here it is for your reading displeasure:

It is easy to produce examples of the many ways in which Americans attempt to minimize, circumvent, or deny the interdependence upon which all human societies are based. We seek a private house, a private means of transportation, a private garden, a private laundry, self-service stores, and do-it-yourself skills of every kind. An enormous technology seems to have set itself the task of making it unnecessary for one human being ever to ask anything of another in the course of going about his daily business. Even within the family Americans are unique in their feeling that each member should have a separate room, and even a separate television, and car, when economically possible. We seek more and more privacy, and feel more and more alienated and lonely when we get it.

Oh how evil of us crass Americans to wish to live lives of our own, pursuing our own goals and dreams, while allowing others to do the same!

Then again, I suspect that Slater is speaking the truth — about himself. The values that he pursued probably didn’t have any meaning for him, so he longed for some human connection to fill the bottomless void inside himself.


So once again, Ayn Rand’s comment about civilization and privacy comes to mind:

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

Notably, Philip Slater couldn’t have written that trash in the kind of society he advocates. He’d be too occupied with the elevating tasks of an “interdependent” life, such as waiting in bread lines for daily rations and working nights to support irresponsible relatives.

A Moral Example of Salami Slicing

 Posted by on 26 June 2008 at 11:47 pm  Business, Cool, Ethics
Jun 262008

Remember that technique which showed up in the plots of movies like Superman III, Hackers, and Office Space, where someone would change bank software to take fractions of cents from transactions like interest payments and funnel them all into one account? Nobody misses a fraction of a cent — but given enough transactions over time, the sum can really add up! That’s what they call “Salami Slicing.”

Of course it is stealing in cases like that, but the same idea of accumulating vast numbers of tiny values that are hardly noticeable could legitimately pay off, too.

Consider this fact about driving your vehicle: left turns often require waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, taking a little more time and gas on average than right turns do. Now, this doesn’t make all that much of a difference to most of us (just like the above fraction of a cent we may or may not get in interest from the bank) — but if you have a fleet of 90,000 big brown trucks that follow the routes you schedule for them each day to deliver packages, then adjusting your software to minimize left turns could really add up!

Last year, according to Heather Robinson, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas…

That’s some serious scratch, especially with the price of gas today! I love it — kudos to the brain at UPS who saw and brilliantly exploited this little fact.

[HT: Jason]

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