Report from ATLOSCon

 Posted by on 2 June 2011 at 10:00 am  AtlosCon, Parenting, Personal
Jun 022011

Note from Diana Hsieh, 22 Feb 2012

If you’ve come to this page via “Checking Premises” or something similar, please note that I’ve written a length commentary on the criticisms circulating about me, including explaining my views of various controversial matters, in this post: On Some Recent Controversies. I’d recommend reading that, then judging me based on my full range of work, not just a few out-of-context snippets. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me privately at [email protected].


Last weekend was the Atlanta Objectivist Society’s weekend mini-conference, ATLOSCon. And I’m delighted to report on its many awesome qualities! Here’s just a partial list of the awesome.

  • Bacon: Paul and I stayed with the Caseys, and they made bacon for us, every single morning. (Yes, I did put that first on my list of awesome. I wouldn’t have made it through the weekend without all that bacon!) I love visiting paleo friends, because then I see how others eat paleo in their native habitat (i.e. at home). We didn’t do much eating at the Casey’s, due to a very full schedule. But the slew of bacon every morning was seriously awesome.
  • My Lectures on Pride: My two lectures on “The Theory and Practice of Pride” went well, I think. Most Objectivists aren’t too clear on the meaning and demands of pride, and that means that they can’t use it on a daily basis, as they do other virtues, to make their lives more awesome. My lectures were a start in the right direction, I think, and I look forward to doing more work on this topic.
  • My Rationally Selfish Webcast: We visited philosophic crazytown — twice, at least — but it was fun to do with a live audience. I’ve already posted the audio here.
  • The Casey Adults: We’d never met Brendan before, so that was a real pleasure. I particularly enjoyed my talk with him about their approach to vaccinating the kids, in light of his own family history. Also, he’s rather better-looking than his Facebook picture… and he has better taste in clothing. Jenn and I talked a good bit about “perfectionism,” which is a topic that I’d like to explore more in the future. Overall, it’s just so darn easy and pleasant to spend time with them: they weren’t a source of “introvert debt,” meaning that feeling of being drained and exhausted by other people, however fun they might be. (That term was coined by Tim, I think.) Maybe I only incur “introvert debt” by spending time with extroverts?
  • The Casey Kids: Happily, I got to spend some time with Ryan, Morgan, and Sean — although not as much as I would have liked. Sean pretty much ignored us: he wasn’t curious or nervous, just uninterested. Morgan and Ryan were exactly as Jenn describes them. Ryan was great fun to talk to, and I wish I had more time (and energy) to talk with him. At one point, Brendan explained who the pope is to Ryan, due to the pope being featured in a story Brendan was telling us. That was fun to witness. Morgan was perfectly sweet and amiable. I would have taken her home with me, because I’m sure she’d be no trouble at all, but alas, Jenn and Brendan would probably object. Also, I was particularly amused when Morgan fell asleep on the couch with her hair slightly in a plate of bacon. Sleepy Child + Bacon = Cute.
  • Positive Discipline in Action: At the Casey’s, I saw the workings of a deeply positive discipline household for myself, from the inside. I’ve spent oodles of time in families with kids ranging from about a year to ten years old, so I’m familiar with standard modes of interaction for those ages. The Casey kids periodically acted in impulsive or emotional ways, as all kids do. However, the resulting problems were solved in a remarkably low-drama, low-conflict way. I didn’t see the standard battle of wills, with the parent forcing their wishes on the unwilling child by threats or bribery. Rather, I saw something more like firm but friendly negotiation for mutually-agreeable solution, and that usually only took a few seconds. That was amazing, particularly given the stress of the weekend. Also, the kids had far, far more respect for the doings of the adults around them than any other kids that I’ve known. Also, awesome.
  • I was able to squeeze in a nice long chat with Trey about my plans for the Rationally Selfish Webcast, particularly the changes that I need to make it what I want it to be. That was super-helpful.
  • The Tweets: We had an excellent slew of #OutOfContext tweets, with my favorite being about my preference for more firm sausage at Saturday’s dinner. Yes, that’s true in all possible senses, although we were actually talking about food.
  • Jason Stotts: I had some good conversations with Jason Stotts of Erosophia about sexual ethics. Our general approach seems more similar than I’d expected, and I think that I need to be more careful in how I’m making certain claims, so that I don’t overstate my views. On that note, I had three (!) separate conversations about the morality of S&M at ATLOSCon, particularly where to draw the line between (a) beneficial enhancement of the sexual experience and (2) self-destructive harms, degradation, humiliation, etc.
  • The Volokhs: Paul and I spent an afternoon with the Volokhs, instead of doing the hike as planned on Sunday. (We were exhausted, so some quiet chat seemed so much more appealing.) I was fascinated to see how much older Charlie seemed than Sean, particularly in his verbal capacity, even though they’re basically the same age. I wonder if that’s just a temperamental, familial, or other ordinary difference — or whether Sasha’s talking to Charlie only in Russian makes some difference in Charlie’s verbal skills. (That was awesome to witness!) Also, I was greatly amused by Charlie’s chasing me down the long room in giggles, but then getting a bit nervous and running back to his parents, and then admitting that he was scared. With Hanah and Sasha, we had a lengthy conversation about the origins and basis of modern Judaism, which I found particularly fascinating, given my own interest in the history of religion. Earlier, we’d discussed why learning so often requires teaching (e.g. in law school or philosophy graduate school) rather than merely private reading and studying on one’s own. That was fascinating to me, and I’m going to have to think about the implications of that for my own work.
  • The Clutter: When Jenn says that her house is cluttered, she means it! It was remarkably clean, however. That got me thinking about what values I can and perhaps ought to let go, particularly given that I’ve just got to lighten my load of obligations. I’ve got an unrecognized perfectionist streak, I think, and that’s having some very pernicious effects on my health.
  • ATLOSCon Lectures: I particularly enjoyed Hanah Volokh’s lecture on interpreting laws, Miranda Barzey’s discussion of creating a value-dense home, and Kelly Elmore’s poetry class. Looking over the schedule again, I heard lots of good things about classes that I didn’t attend, and I hope that recordings will be available.
  • ATLOSCON People: I enjoyed meeting a whole slew of people that I’ve known online for ages, like Ansley and John, Tori, and Miranda. And I met new awesome people, like Tim and Faye. And I saw friends that I wish I could see more, like Trey, Earl, Tom, Shea, Jenn, and Kelly. For those not mentioned, please consider yourselves awesome too!

I hope that I’ve not forgotten anything too important, but if so, just add it to the comments. Honestly, I’m still rather wiped out from the whole wild weekend of too many people and too little sleep. I’m quite certain that if every weekend were like ATLOSCon, I’d be soon featured in a VH1 series entitled “Behind the Philosophy” that would track my heedless and wild rise, then my tragic downfall, and then my careful rise again. Happily, ATLOSCon happens only once per year, so I’ll be safe from that disaster.If you missed ATLOSCon, you should come next year! It’s fun, fun, fun! But you need not wait that long. You can attend the Chicago minicon over Labor Day Weekend (September 3rd and 4th) or to Denver’s next SnowCon from January 11th to the 15th.

Most of all, thank you to everyone who made ATLOSCon possible, both the other speakers and organizers! It was a fantastic experience, and I look forward to seeing everyone next year.

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