More News About Boulder Philosophy

May 312004

Our philosophy department is is something of a state of flux. Brian Leiter reports on another potential departure:

Texas and Florida have already made offers to George Bealer (metaphysics, epistemology) at the University of Colorado at Boulder; now Yale has made him an offer as well. Hopefully this will resolve itself before the new PGR survey in early September.

George Bealer is the big draw for a number of good graduate students at Boulder. They will be in something of a pickle if he leaves.

The Metaphysics of Honesty

May 302004

Tara Smith’s recently-published article “The Metaphysical Case for Honesty” is now available online for free from the Journal of Value Inquiry. The link to the PDF can be found from this table of contents page, about halfway down.

I haven’t read the article yet; I’ve just printed it out. (I was checking on a formatting issue for my author’s proofs of “False Excuses: Honesty, Wrongdoing, and Moral Growth” — soon to be published in the same journal — when I noticed that it was finally available for free. Hooray!)

Two Tales of Doggie Trauma

May 292004

Tale One: Abby and the Post

A few weeks ago, I was holding one of the horses for the farrier just outside the barn. As usual, the dogs were with us. At one point, Abby spotted a magpie and bolted after it at full speed. (This is standard behavior, for one of Abby’s farm dog jobs is to chase the magpies off the property. No, it’s not actually necessary or even beneficial, but she thinks it’s fun.) Normally, Abby has impeccable timing. She can leap through the bottom and middle strands of our smoothwire fence without missing a beat. This time, however, she missed. Somehow, she ran into the large wooden post on her right side.

She seemed physically okay, just a bit shaken up. Although I saw the whole action unfold, I wasn’t quite sure where on her body she hit the post, for she was moving too fast. Nonetheless, she didn’t have a head injury and her ribs weren’t sore; she seemed fine.

On the other hand, the large wooden post didn’t fare so well. Abby broke it completely in two, so that it was only being held up by the smoothwire. Really, I kid you not:

The post next to it was all askew as well. Because these posts formed a complicated corner, I decided not to try to replace the broken post myself. My fencing guy was good enough to repair the whole mess while I was away at the Grand Canyon. (Apparently, it was rather difficult, as the posts were set in concrete.)

Before the repairs, I took a picture of Abby next to her handiwork:

What a dog!

Tale Two: Kate the Artificial Dog

The day before we arrived home from our trip, our dog Kate broke her left hind femur. We don’t know how it happened, since the dogs were alone at the time. All we know is that Friday evening, when our excellent housesitter came by, Kate was simply refusing to put any weight on the leg whatsoever.

So upon arriving home on Saturday after many hours of driving, we loaded Kate into the car, drove yet another hour up to Alameda East Veterinary Hospital. (Some of you might be familiar with Alameda East if you’ve ever seen the TV show Emergency Vets on Animal Planet.) Despite the substantial pain that Kate must have been suffering, she was her usual cheerful and compliant self.

Since Alameda East is so far away, we don’t use it for our ordinary, run-of-the-mill veterinary services. However, Kate’s many orthopedic problems have long been the province of Dr. Robert Taylor, an excellent orthopedic surgeon at Alameda East. In March of 2002, he performed a bicep tendon release on both shoulders for arthritis. In May and September of 2002, he installed bilateral cementless hip replacements for hip dysplasia. All of those surgeries went well. Kate more recently developed painful calcium growths along the bones in her front paws, which were being managed well with medication. Clearly, the dog is an orthopedic disaster. (Since we adopted Kate as an adult from an animal shelter, we have no idea of her history or even how old she is. Since we’ve had her for over four years now, she must be at least seven.) Although we didn’t know precisely what was wrong with her leg this time, Paul and I figured that she was probably in need of the high level of care that Alameda East provides. We were right.

From the initial x-rays, Kate’s left femur was indeed badly fractured. It was displaced, meaning the bone on either side of the break was no longer properly aligned. The emergency vet told us that she would likely require a plate. We left her at Alameda, so that she could be properly medicated and observed. On Monday, she was seen by Dr. Taylor. On Tuesday, he installed the plate. On Thursday, she came home.

As it turns out, the break was mostly likely just some kind of freak accident. It was not any kind of stress fracture from the hip replacement because it was below the bottom screw. It was not due to weakness from bone cancer, as all the biopsies came back negative. I suspect that Abby simply knocked her down on the concrete of the garage or the flagstone of the patio. (Abby tends to leap about with little concern for the objects around her when she gets excited.)

So I’m presently stuck at home, playing nursemaid to Kate. Paul and I are pretty much living downstairs, in our walk-out basement, in order to keep an eye on her and to keep her company. (Unlike upstairs, the downstairs is carpeted and without any stairs on the way outside.) She isn’t yet putting full weight on her broken and plated leg, probably because it is still quite swollen. But she’s doing better on her short walks outside. As usual, she is cheerful and compliant.

Instead of showing you a picture of my strangely shaven and swollen doggie, here’s a picture of her in the garden. (My tulips were really quite lovely this spring.)

Let’s hope for no more orthopedic disasters! I’ve had enough!

Comments Back On

May 282004

I’ve re-opened the comments. I will be somewhat altering my fully open comments policy, as I’m not eager to return to the all-too-frequent insanity of a few weeks ago. I’ll say more about the change and my reasons soon enough.

The Mystery Revealed

May 282004

On May 9th, Paul and I completed our first five years of marriage. To celebrate the occasion, we decided upon a rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. That’s where we were while on hiatus from blogging, e-mail, and all other modern forms of communication. We had a utterly fantastic time.

Due to time constraints, Paul and I opted to oar and paddle down only the lower half of the canyon, along with six guides from Canyon Explorations and eighteen other people. Our first major task was to meet up with the full canyon trippers, swapping places with the upper canyon trippers, at the bottom of the Bright Angel Trail. The trail is 7.5 miles long, with a one mile change in elevation; our packs were about 25 pounds.

Honestly, I never knew that I had bad knees until that hike. At the mid-point (Indian Gardens), they were so wobbly and pained that I wondered whether I would be able to make it all the way down to the river at all. Thankfully, while taking a breather at Indian Gardens, a lovely older woman suggested that I turn my toes in while walking, as that helps stabilize the problem ligaments. It worked, enabling me to hike the rest of the way down, albeit still with a substantial amount of pain.

That night, my knees were killing me, so much so that I could barely walk. The next morning, my knees were fine, but my calves and thighs were so bad that I still couldn’t walk. My muscles slowly improved over the course of some days, although they weren’t fully back to normal until the last day of the trip. The first few days, any muscle use was painful if not impossible, including merely standing up. Although I did some running, weights, and hiking before the trip, surely that was not enough. In retrospect, I also think that the wobble in my knees contributed to the later muscle pain, since I was using those muscles in order to keep the knees steady.

Our trip was a “hybrid” trip, meaning that our group had five oar boats, one paddle boat, plus two inflatable kayaks or “duckies.” The variety of transportation enabled people to do more or less work propelling themselves down the river and through the rapids depending upon their energy level. On the oar boats, which held two to four people, plus the rowing boatman, plus lots of food and gear, we mostly sat back, chatted a bit, and enjoyed the sights of the canyon. Traversing rapids generally required little more than merely hanging on so as not to go for a swim in the very, very chilly water. Towards the end of the trip, I did row one of the oar boats for a bit, which was quite fun, not to mention physically demanding and perceptually challenging. (Reading the current was a far more subtle and important perceptual skill than I had realized.) In the paddle boat, which required six people plus the boatman, we had to work a bit harder, particularly through the rapids. The greater responsibility generated greater pride though… and we did enjoy the occasional “power relax” in quiet water. The duckies were great fun, particularly given the dangers of swimming if hit by a wave from the side through the rapids. I spent a delightful albeit tiring afternoon in one.

In addition to the rafting, we stopped to hike in side canyons almost every day. Paul and I tended not to opt for the “death march” hikes, but instead more slowly made our way to some pretty little spot with waterfalls, bathing pools, and shade in order to read, relax, and in his case, nap. Happily, my painful muscles only caused me to miss one hike. As soon as I could adequately control my muscles so as to not be in danger of falling off some cliff, I started hiking. (Those hikes actually diminished my soreness by moving the lactic acid out of my muscles.) It’s amazing how little pain matters when sloppy footwork means death.

One of my major concerns about the trip was the plethora of unknown persons. Although my philosophic life is rather public, my real life is designed to be quite solitary and secluded. (That might seem contradictory, but it’s not. My public life on the internet allows me to find and bond with the sort of people I like more quickly, easily, and reliably than mere in-person contact allows.) Most days, I’m perfectly happy sharing my time with only Paul and the beasts. In contrast, I’m quite miserable vacationing at a resort, for that requires sharing beaches or pools with random strangers. I have little tolerance for forced and idle chit-chat with mere acquaintances over hors-d’oeuvres. I’m happy with my far-off neighbors, but would prefer them to be wholly out-of-sight, nice though they may be. My concern is not with my privacy in the sense of other people seeing my goings-on. Rather, my aversion is to the ways in which other people’s lives impinge upon me in unwanted ways.

Somewhat to my surprise, living in close proximity to more than 20 other total strangers didn’t bother me much. On the oar boats with just a few people it was often very quiet. Much of the conversation concerned our common interest, namely life in the Canyon. (I particularly enjoyed talking to the guides about their work in the winter. Some of my conversations were even rather interesting exercises in philosophical detection.) Once we choose a camp site for the night, we were often so busy taking care of the necessities of life (e.g. washing clothes, bathing, setting up bedding, and so on) that conversation fell into the background. The trip was long enough to get to know people a bit, such that their regular lives became of interest. Paul and I also tended to go to bed early, so we didn’t get worn out with the night-time conversations. Of course, it also helped that people were also quite friendly and affable. At the end of the trip, it was interesting to notice just how different we all were, yet how well we got along.

Happily, the weather was fairly cool, even chilly the first few days. I only got a bit of sunburn towards the end of the trip. We didn’t have any rain, so Paul and I never bothered to get out a tent, but instead slept under the stars every night. Oh, and I should mention that the food was scrumptious. We had glazed pork chops, carrot cake, thai beef, grilled chicken breasts, chocolate cake, lasagna, and so much more. Yummy!

Overall, the guides were wonderful, the people friendly, the food fabulous, the rapids invigorating, the weather fairly cool, the hikes fun, and the stars plentiful. It was a great time. Perhaps the best I can say is that Paul and I hope to go back in a few years for the full canyon trip.

Back But Not On

May 242004

Normally, I have nothing but praise for our local high speed network provider, Hometown Access. However, ever since Paul and I returned home on Saturday (after 8 delightful days of rafting in the Grand Canyon), they have been performing “maintenance” — leaving us without our usual net access. We have no idea when we will be back online, as their tech support cannot tell me when the maintenance will be complete. According to the last guy I spoke to, it might be a day, a week, a month, or who knows. That’s pathetic.

So don’t expect much in the way of blogging or e-mail from me for a bit.

Update: Some good folks at Hometown Access got me back online! (The tech support guy mentioned above was woefully misinformed.) Hooray! No blogging yet though, as I’m presently headed to somewhere on the western slope (of the Colorado Rockies) to hear Yaron Brook speak. (I’m carpooling with some of my local Objectivist friends. Hopefully they know where they are going, as I’m very much out of the loop!)

Blogging will likely resume tomorrow.

On Hiatus

May 082004

I’ll be on hiatus from blogging for the next two weeks. As I’ll be beyond the reach of the internet for much of that time, I’ve decided to close down the comments during my absence. I’d like to let many of the debates cool down, if not die entirely.

A few weeks ago, when I was busy finishing up my semester, I was hoping to post on some of the more interesting issues raised in the comments. Yet before that could happen, the debate took a turn for the absurd. Too much was beyond the realm of the reasonable disagreement. Even if I had only responded to the more thoughtful and interesting commenters, I worried about giving a false impression of regarding the rest as reasonable or legitimate. That’s why I haven’t said much of anything in the past week, even though my semester was done. (I do appreciate those who attempted to keep the debate focused on the relevant principles, but such seemed to be a losing battle.)

So I’m going to give the comments a bit of a breather while I’m away. I will have more to say on the significant and legitimate issues raised in the comments, as well as the absurdities, once I return to blogging.

For the moment, silence is the order of the fortnight.

John Ridpath in Denver

May 082004

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend, but the event promises to be an excellent time.

The Front Range Objectivist Supper Talks is pleased to announce its SECOND event:

John Ridpath
May 15, 2004

West Woods Golf Clubhouse
6655 Quaker
Arvada, CO

Adults: $45.00
Students: $35.00
Reservations required by May 13 2004.

In The Dawn’s Early Light: Patrick Henry — Beacon for America

It is common today to hear the founding fathers trashed and their accomplishments devalued. Even among those who are still acknowledged as the leaders and founders of our country and its form of government, we hear most about the first Presidents: Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison.

Among the other founding heroes, one man stands out. This man ­ whom Thomas Jefferson once described as “the first man on this continent” ­ was Patrick Henry. You may know him as the man who proclaimed “Give me Liberty or Give me Death.” He was acknowledged by many to be the leader in the decade leading to the revolution (1765 – 1775). Dr. Ridpath will tell the story of Patrick Henry’s life from the perspective of that early decade and his constant defense of the rights of man.

From 1765 to his last appearance, in 1799, Patrick Henry stood as a beacon of integrity and courage with passion for fighting for the rights of man, while guiding the young America to safe harbor.

His view was a free and independent America administered by Presidents rather than a wasteland ruled by tyrants. Come and be inspired by Dr. John Ridpath of the Ayn Rand Institute as he presents a tribute to Patrick Henry.

Additionally, John Ridpath has graciously agreed to allow a question and answer period at the end of his talk on any questions about Objectivism or about Ayn Rand.

John Ridpath is a recently retired associate professor of economics and intellectual history at York University in Toronto, Canada, continues to write and speak on the history of ideas and their impact on social change. He has spoken at conferences about the central thinkers in Western history, the impact of their ideas on history, including the ideas influencing the Founding Fathers and early American history. As a specialist in Ayn Rand’s system of ideas, articles by Dr. Ridpath have appeared in The Objectivist Forum and The Intellectual Activist. Widely recognized for his lecturing skills, as well as for his public speaking and debating in defense of capitalism, he is a recipient of the prestigious award given by the Ontario Council of University Faculty Associations for outstanding contribution to university teaching.

FROST is a new organization with the purpose of bringing national and internationally known speakers affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute to the Denver metro area to speak on all manner of subjects. For further information or to make reservations please contact

FROST c/o Lin Zinser
8700 Dover Court
Arvada, CO 80005

CyberSex Games

May 012004

Heh. What happens when people take their sexual metaphors literally? Much amusement. (Via GeekPress.)

Ten Days of Struggle

May 012004

Hooray! This morning I gave the final dose of the ten day, twice per day regimen of antibiotic eyedrops to our cat Oliver. (New kitty Elliot brought home an infection with spread to Oliver’s eyes.) The whole medication process was quite unpleasant, for both Oliver and myself. He was endlessly attempting to escape my clutches, jerking his head just the moment before the drop fell, and meowing in a most pleading fashion. (Predictably, Elliot showed no sympathy whatsoever for Oliver’s plight, but merely had great fun stealing and batting about the cap to the eyedrops.)

Even though Oliver is a hefty cat, I did worry about hurting him, as keeping him still required quite a strong grip. If only I had one of those bunny crates that animal rights activists hate so much…

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