Truffle Salt

Jul 312010

Some weeks ago, friends gave us a present of truffle salt. It transforms my sous vide scrambled eggs from fantastic into some kind of ecstatic religious experience… perhaps akin to ascending into heaven on the shoulders of Jesus. (Yup, if God existed, I would burn in hell for all eternity for that wisecrack.)

With that sous vide scrambled eggs recipe, I use eight eggs for two people rather than merely five. I often add an ounce or two of cheese, as well as a strip or two of crumbled cooked bacon. Oh, and I should mention that the time required for cooking depends greatly on the number and size of the eggs. Once the eggs begin to set, you need to check the bag every two minutes or so.

Of course, you don’t need to make your scrambled eggs sous vide to enjoy the amazing flavor of truffle salt in them: regular scrambled eggs will do, I imagine. Oddly, truffle salt doesn’t do much for whole eggs, whether hard boiled or the “custard eggs” that I make sous vide. We’ve also found that truffle salt is is excellent with creamy pureed cauliflower. I’d love to hear other suggestions for its use in the comments.

Due to that fabulous experience with the truffle salt, I decided to treat myself to a whole set of flavored salts. I’ve had fun playing around with some of them, although I’ve not yet cracked them all open. I’m fascinated by how these salts make the flavor pop so more than just salt plus flavor.

I’m also fascinated with how much better certain high-quality sea salts taste than even ordinary sea salt, as well as how intolerable plain table salt tastes now. Plain sodium chloride is really quite nasty!

Ayn Rand Didn’t Really Believe in Good and Evil?!?

Jul 302010

Sweet Jesus. Govindini Murty (GM) of Libertas Film Magazine interviews the director of the new Atlas Shrugged movie, Paul Johansson (PJ):

GM: To return to the themes of the novel. Do you think the characters are beyond good and evil, beyond morality in a Nietzschean sense?

PJ: I really believe that. I really believe that.

GM: That they’re these Promethean, Titanic figures who are above such things?

PJ: I really believe that. Rand uses a lot of things like good and evil in her text but I don’t think she really believed those ideas. It’s like what Oscar Wilde said … I don’t know the exact quote – he said that a book can either be poorly written or well written, but it can’t be evil.

GM: But the novel has that Nietzschean overtone to it.

PJ: Absolutely.

Ayn Rand didn’t write about good and evil for mere decoration. As she said in the postscript to Atlas Shrugged: “And I mean it.” Seriously, go read her essay “The Objectivist Ethics” if you’re unsure about her ethics. Don’t attempt to make a movie on the assumption that she was just kidding.

Addendum: A friend of mine said:

Watch the video version. He is just eager to please and won’t disagree with any of the leading questions the interviewer feeds him. My impression is that he has no ideas at all and is desperate to sound like he does. This is what you would expect from someone with no directing experience, desperate to sound like he has some. One way or the other this movie is going to be particularly bad.

I’ve not watched the video, as I’ve had more important work on my plate, but that sounds plausible to me.

(Via John Day.)

Objectivist Roundup

Jul 292010

Benpercent hosted this week’s Objectivist Roundup. Go check it out!

Rationally Selfish Q&A

Jul 292010

I’ve got a slew fabulous projects in the works right now, but I’m particularly enthused to announce this new bit of fun for NoodleFood.

Every Tuesday, I’ll answer a question on the practice of living a rationally selfish life on NoodleFood … but only if you help me select the question!

This reader-driven method of selecting questions is an experiment for me. If people enjoy it — and if I enjoy it — then I’ll continue and refine it. If it flops, then I’ll direct my efforts elsewhere.

For now, I’m using Google Moderator to facilitate the submission of and voting on questions. Each week, you’ll have until 10 AM on Monday to submit your questions and vote on other people’s questions. That’s when I’ll select one of the top-voted questions to answer. I’ll post the question with my answer to NoodleFood on Tuesday. Then I’ll open up a clean slate for another round of questions and voting.

Do you have a question to submit? Do you want to view and vote on other people’s questions? You’ll always find the current slate of question here: Rationally Selfish Q&A. If you have any problems with that, you can find this week’s slate of questions here too.

Now, a few details…

  • For these Q&As, I want to focus purely on the practice of flourishing — meaning of living the best possible life as a rational egoist. For example, these three questions drawn from my FormSpring inbox are perfect:
    1. How would you treat an adult child who wishes to move back home after a history of poor self-control and irresponsible choices?
    2. I am a 20-something woman with ambitious career goals and a strong desire to have a family. How did you decide to pursue a career rather than having children? Do you have any advice about how to go about making the decision?
    3. What are some safe topics to discuss on a first date?

    (I’ve added those to this week’s list of possible questions, so please feel free to go vote on them.)

  • Your questions must be very short. Google Moderate imposes a limit of 250 characters: that’s about 50 words. So you’ll have to boil down your question to its essentials. If you like, you can provide some more context by posting a “response” to your own question. However, none of that context will appear in my NoodleFood post. Your question must be able to stand on its own.
  • You’re welcome to post your own thoughts on posted questions as “responses.”
  • You’re welcome to repost your own questions from week to week, if you’re still interested in an answer.
  • You can post anonymously, although you might need to be logged into a Google Account to do even that.

If you have any other questions, please post them in the comments. Otherwise, head on over to the Rationally Selfish Q&A!

Open Thread #185

Jul 282010

Here’s yet another Open Thread for your thoughts:

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.)

Three Topics, Your Choice: Pledge for Another Podcast

Jul 282010

It’s time … drumroll please … for Phase Two of “Choose Your Own Podcast Adventure”! As you might recall, I solicited suggestions for my next podcast topic a few weeks ago. The many proposals offered were excellent, so I don’t just want to pick one topic myself. I’d have a tough time deciding! Instead, I want to offer you — or more precisely, the people willing to fund the podcast — the power to select the topic.

To that end, I’m holding a pledge run-off between the top three proposed topics for this podcast:

  • Irrational Family Members: How can we be consistently rational and selfish in our dealings with irrational, altruistic, and/or religious family members? When should you tolerate people you dislike or that you judge immoral? How can you make those people more tolerable — or even acceptable? What should you do if that’s not possible? When should cut off relations with someone? How can you explain what you’re doing and why to your better family members?
  • Sense of Life: What is “sense of life”? What is its importance to a person’s life? How do you identify your own sense of life? How do you identify that of others? How does sense of life impact our thinking, feelings, and choices? How does it impact our relations with other people, including friendship and romance? How is sense of life revealed in our responses to art? What is the relationship between a person’s sense of life and his explicit philosophy? Can sense of life be changed? If so, how?
  • Value Density: What is value density? How and why do people fail to seek value density in their lives? How can we make our lives more value dense? How does the concept apply to our purchases, what we eat, our relationships, productivity, vacations, education, and social events, for example?

Due to other demands on my time — like the final two podcasts for Explore Atlas Shrugged — I’ll collect pledges until August 31st at noon. If people pledge enough money to make this 30 to 60 minute podcast worth my while, I’ll produce it by September 10th. The topic will be whichever of the three above topics that receives the most money in total pledges. Most importantly, only the people who pledged on that particular topic will receive the podcast.

As before, you (or someone in your household) must pledge on the winning topic for you to hear the podcast. I’ll likely offer this new podcast for sale later, as I’ve done with my podcast on finding good prospects for romance and friendship. However, I’m not sure of the terms or timing of that sale. So if you want the podcast to be produced and you want to hear it, you should pledge now.

As before, you won’t owe me any money until the podcast is delivered to you. You’re paying for performance, not mere promises! So if I don’t produce the podcast by September 10th, whether because the funds pledged were insufficient or for any other reason, then you’ll owe me nothing. Also, if you’re not satisfied with the quality of the podcast, I’ll refund your pledge.

Finally, the pledges for the two non-winning topics will be null and void, since I’ll only produce one podcast. As a result, you can pledge on more than one topic, if you like, knowing that you’ll only owe one pledge in the end. In fact, to ensure that you get the podcast, you must pledge on all three topics. In other words, pledge early and pledge often!

You can pledge on any one, two, or three topics using this pledge form. (If you don’t want to pledge for a given topic, just enter “0″.) Please do include your questions on the topics, as that will help me produce a better podcast!

[Sorry, pledging has closed! The results are here.]

Do you have questions? I’ve got answers!

How much should I pledge?

That’s entirely up to you. You should pledge whatever amount you’d like to contribute in order to motivate me to produce the podcast, based on your interest in that topic.

How do I know if the podcast will be any good?

I hope that you’ve come to appreciate the quality of my work from regularly reading NoodleFood, listening to my NoodleCasts, hearing my OCON course on luck, and so on.

Will anyone know that I’ve committed?

Your name, e-mail, pledge amount, and question will be anonymous. I’ll likely post the substantive questions and comments, but I’ll make them anonymous.

What if I change my mind after I pledge?

If you wish to increase your pledge, you can always pledge more. Just submit another pledge to be added to your existing pledges. If you make a mistake in your pledge, you can e-mail me at e-mail me at [email protected] before August 31st. If you want to back out of your pledge… well, I won’t have any legal way of enforcing this contract, but if you welch on your bill, you’re a schmuck!

When will I find out whether you’re doing the podcast or not?

The call for pledges ends at noon on August 31st. I’ll e-mail everyone who pledged, as well as post an announcement to NoodleFood, with the news about whether I’ll be producing the podcast or not.

How do I pay you?

You’ll be able to pay via PayPal, or you can send me a check or money order. (I prefer PayPal, but I’m happy to get payment via paper too.)

Can I share the podcast with anyone else?

You may only share it with other members of your household. Again, I won’t have any legal way of enforcing this contract, but if you distribute the link, you’re a schmuck!

What if I’m not satisfied with the podcast?

If the podcast doesn’t offer you the value you expected, then I will void your pledge and refund any money paid. All that you have to do is e-mail me explaining why you’re dissatisfied with the podcast.

If I don’t pledge, will I be able to hear the podcast?

Maybe, maybe not. If people don’t pledge enough money to make the podcast worth my while, then no one will ever hear it. If people do pledge enough money, I might release it as an ordinary, free NoodleCast… eventually. I wouldn’t do that until 2011, at the earliest. Before then, I might make it available for a price, but I’ve not decided. Basically, if you don’t pledge any money now, before August 31st, then you’re risking that you’ll never hear it.

Why are you doing this?

I want to know whether and how much people value my work. I want to offer people what they value most. And I want to be fairly paid for the value I provide. Plus, knowing that people really do value my work — that they’re willing to support it with their dollars — is hugely motivating! On the other hand, if some endeavor of mine isn’t much valued, then I’d appreciate knowing that, so that I can spend my time on other projects.

What do I do if I have some other question?

Please post it in the comments or e-mail me at [email protected]. I’ll update these questions to clarify as needed.

The Cult of Busy

Jul 272010

I liked this article on The Cult of Busy by Scott Berkun, but this paragraph struck me as particularly noteworthy:

The phrase “I don’t have time for” should never be said. We all get the same amount of time every day. If you can’t do something it’s not about the quantity of time. It’s really about how important the task is to you. I’m sure if you were having a heart attack, you’d magically find time to go to the hospital. That time would come from something else you’d planned to do, but now seems less important. This is how time works all the time. What people really mean when they say “I don’t have time” is this thing is not important enough to earn my time. It’s a polite way to tell people they’re not worth your time.

I plan to wean myself of the too-easy habit of saying that “I don’t have time.” I need to be perfectly honest with myself and others: I’m not willing to make the time. That will be clarifying for me, as well as for others, I think. And that will help me make better decisions about how I spend my time.

Most of all though, I want to make sure that I’m “time-rich”:

People who truly have control over time have some in their pocket to give to someone in need. They have a sense of priorities that drives their use of time and can shift away from the specific ordinary work that’s easy to justify, in favor of the more ethereal, deeper things that are harder to justify. They protect their time from trivia and idiocy. These people are time rich. They provide themselves with a surplus of time. They might seem to idle, or to relax, more often then the rest, but that may be a sign of their mastery not their incompetence.

To hell with the altruism in the first sentence: time-rich people have time to devote to meaningful projects and activities!

Yesterday, I spent the whole day re-organizing my implementation of GTD in OmniFocus, so that I could gain much-needed clarity about my projects and commitments. That means that I’m extra-busy today, unfortunately. Yet it will enable me to be far more time-rich in the future.

Kelly Valenzuela: OCON on the Cheap

Jul 272010

My friend Kelly Valenzuela recently posted some excellent advice on attending OCON without breaking the bank to her blog Rant from the Rock. She gave me permission to reproduce her whole blog post, and so without further ado, here’s Kelly’s advice:

Last week I returned from OCON where I had an absolutely fabulous time! Not only did I get to meet many Objectivists from all over the country and the world, but I got to see some good friends I rarely get to see. It was also a chance for me and my husband to get some much needed R&R. The Red Rock Resort, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas was a beautiful facility and we enjoyed many days beside their lovely pool. All of my pictures have been posted to Facebook, so you can check them out there.

Many Objectivists complain that OCON is too expensive and they’d like to go, but simply cannot afford it. While I’m sure there are some who truly cannot afford a vacation and/or conference, I think many could afford OCON if they only knew how to do it on the cheap.

First of all, I concede that OCON can be expensive. A couple could easily spend thousands of dollars on air fare, hotel, meals and conference lectures. The lectures and general sessions are usually wonderful and although pricey, the money helps fund Objectivist lecturers and The Ayn Rand Institute, which I consider a worthy cause.

To make lectures more affordable, you can buy them a la carte. If you wish to purchase lectures or general session events a la carte, you cannot register online (or at least you couldn’t this year); however, if you go to the OCON website during registration and click on “Registration” there is a number you can call to register a la carte.

Santiago and I only purchased the dance lesson and the closing dinner banquet. While there were other lectures we wanted to see, we simply couldn’t afford them and we felt the dance lesson and banquet would be something fun and social we could do together, while still having the opportunity to mingle with other Objectivists.

Besides the two events we paid for, we attended several of the free events. Yes, there are FREE events such as:

  • A reception for first-time conference attendees
  • Casual dinner for campus clubs and community groups and those interested in starting a new group
  • The State of the ARI by Yaron Brook
  • Independence Day Celebration
  • Introduction to Planned Giving (donating to ARI via your estate)
  • ARI Benefactors Dinner (by invitation only)
  • Rockstar Karaoke
  • Academic Panel
  • Lunch for Anthem Foundation Donors (by invitation only)
  • Social Dancing
  • Lunch for Atlantis Legacy Donors (by invitation only)
  • Happy Hours, dinner parties and other events put together by conference attendees, social groups and campus clubs

Santiago and I were also fortunate enough to be invited to John Lewis and Casey Conn’s renewal of their wedding vows while in Las Vegas. It was truly a highlight of the conference.

We also organized a trip to the Clark County Shooting Range. It was a lot of fun to teach other Objectivists how to shoot and watch them experience the thrill of handling a firearm for the first time.

Someone started an OCON 2010 Facebook page which helped many people secure a roommate, plan social gatherings and see news and announcements. One of those announcements was that Penn and Teller were offering conference attendees half price tickets to their show. Many of us took advantage of that and were treated to a wonderful show! Penn and Teller also mingled with the audience after the show, signed autographs and took photos.

With Penn

Penn told us, “This place is maggoty with Objectivists tonight!”

So that just about covers the conference itself, but what about hotel, airfare and meals? Well, that’s easy too!

Thanks to our incompetent government and this awful economy it’s created, airfare is downright cheap nowadays. I recommend checking Southwest Airlines frequently for their “Wanna Get Away” fares. Many times you can buy early or last minute and get great deals. Southwest doesn’t participate in sites such as, or Priceline, so be sure to check those sites independently for great deals from other carriers. Frequently, they will put their fares on sale to meet or beat Southwest.

Another option is to drive to the conference. The location changes each year. Las Vegas was only a 12 hour, scenic drive from Denver, so we took to the highway. Next year’s conference is in Fort Lauderdale. I won’t be driving to Florida, but I will start looking very early for good flight deals to Florida.

OCON is held at very nice hotels and conference facilities which, while luxurious and convenient, are often very pricey. Fortunately, old downtown Las Vegas (think Fremont Street) had many inexpensive hotels to choose from. We stayed at The Fitzgerald where our weeknights were only $29/night and our weekends were only $49/night. Others secured roommates for the conference and split the $120/night room cost at Red Rock.

I haven’t looked into Fort Lauderdale (OCON 2011) options yet, but I’m willing to bet I can find something close to the conference or a reasonable distance away for much less than the conference hotel rates. Then we can either walk, use public transportation, a rental car or friends with cars to get around. This can be tricky, so make sure you do your homework to make sure you’re getting the best deal and that your transportation needs are met. If there is not sufficient public transportation or if your rental car blows your hotel budget, you might as well stay at the conference hotel.

And finally, what are you going to eat? Meals are the easiest part of the whole budget! I’m on the paleo diet so eating is even more of a challenge for me than it is for most. Not only am I challenged with finding healthy foods, but I need to keep meal costs within my budget as well.

If you can locate a hotel room with a mini-frige and microwave, that’s ideal. Then you can go to the local grocery store and buy some lunch meats, cheeses, fruit and veggies to have as quick, easy lunches or snacks. A mini-frige is also helpful for keeping wine or beer which is often very pricey at hotels and restaurants.

Search the internet for restaurants near where you’ll be staying and near the conference. Many restaurants have email lists you can sign up for and they will occasionally mail you coupons or other specials. If you sign up now, surely you’ll find out about some good deals prior to OCON 2011.

Also keep in mind that many restaurants have early-bird specials (especially in Florida!) so eating dinner a bit early can save you lots of cash. Happy hours often feature not only cheap drinks, but good food. Sometimes you can get a variety of appetizers, burgers or smaller entrees for a reasonable price if you simply eat in the bar area.

And don’t forget fast food! Many fast food establishments are offering more healthy menu items and much more variety. Go for a bunless burger, a salad or a bowl of chili. Or have a full breakfast for just a few bucks.

If you want to go to OCON bad enough, you can make it happen! Figure out what your budget is, write it down, then stick to it! You have a whole year to save and plan, so what are you waiting for?


See you in Fort Lauderdale!

Pledge for an Updated Policy Paper on Colorado’s "Personhood" Amendment

Jul 262010

Once again, the religious right is launching a massive assault on reproductive rights in Colorado — and in other states too — by demanding for full legal rights for fertilized eggs. Ari Armstrong and I are asking for your help to fund an updated policy paper explaining the moral and practical evils of Colorado’s new “personhood” amendment.

In 2008, the theocrats of the religious right gathered the requisite signatures to put a “personhood” amendment on Colorado’s ballot. Known as Amendment 48, this proposed amendment to the state constitution sought to define a fertilized egg as a person with full legal rights in the Colorado constitution. Amendment 48 was defeated resoundingly with 73% against and 27% in favor.

Unfortunately, the crusade for “personhood” did not perish with Amendment 48. Instead, the crusaders went national, expanding the activity of Personhood USA to over 30 states. They’re back in Colorado for the 2010 election with Amendment 62, a slightly modified version of Amendment 48.

Colorado’s Amendment 62 would grant full legal rights to zygotes from the moment of fertilization. It proposes:

An amendment to the Colorado Constitution applying the term ‘person’ as used in those provisions of the Colorado Constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice and due process of law, to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.

If passed and enforced, the measure would require abortions to be punished as first-degree murders, except perhaps to save the woman’s life. It would ban any form of birth control that might sometimes prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus — including the birth control pill. And it would ban viable forms in vitro fertilization because the process usually creates more fertilized eggs than can be safely implanted in the womb. The measure poses a grave threat to the life, liberty, health, and happiness of the women and men of Colorado.

In 2008, the Coalition for Secular Government published a policy paper by Ari Armstrong and myself entitled Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person. We devoted countless volunteer hours to write, publish, and promote the paper. We’re proud of the results of that work: our paper offered the only substantive moral critique of the proposed amendment and a detailed analysis of its effects.

Now Ari Armstrong and I need to update that policy paper for 2010′s Amendment 62. We want the new paper to reflect the changes in the language of the amendment, as well as better address the arguments made in favor of “personhood.” We’d like to discuss the worse political climate in Colorado, plus the spread of the “personhood” movement to other states. And once again, we’d like to promote the new paper via media releases, op-eds, and letters to the editor.

That work will be substantial: Ari and I expect the project to require two solid weeks of work from each of us. And we have other pressing demands on our time.

So we’re asking you to contribute to the update of that policy paper by pledging your money in exchange for our work. We want to raise $2000 in pledges for the new policy paper — by August 3rd at noon. In return, we promise to deliver the revised paper by August 31st, then promote it until the November election. If we raise less than that $2000 in pledges, we’ll still revise the paper, but we’ll scale back our efforts accordingly. If we raise more than that $2000 in pledges, we’ll collect just $2000, pro-rating each pledge accordingly. Your pledge won’t be due until we release the updated paper. That’s because you’re not pledging for effort but for results. If we don’t release the paper for some reason, then you’ll owe nothing.

If you want to stop the theocrats in Colorado and other states … if you want to preserve our rights to abortion, birth control, and in vitro fertilization … if you want to protect the health and lives of American women — please pledge using the form below.

In the “Question or Comment” field, we’d love to hear why you’re supporting our fight against the “personhood” movement. If you have questions or arguments that you’d like to see addressed in the updated policy paper, please include those too.

[It's too late to pledge! Go read the paper!]

Most of all, thank you for your support!

Questions and Answers about Pledging

How much should I pledge?

That’s entirely up to you. You should pledge whatever amount our efforts are worth to you, in light of your resources. Any pledge is welcome.

How can I know what positions and arguments policy paper will contain?

I’d recommend that you read the original version of the paper: Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person. We’re proud of that work: we stand by all the claims and arguments in it. In addition, you can read CSG’s summary of and publications on Amendment 48, as well our recent blog posts on Amendment 62.

Will anyone know that I’ve pledged?

Your name, e-mail, pledge amount, and comment will not be published or otherwise shared with anyone outside CSG unless required by law.

What if I change my mind after I pledge?

If you wish to increase your pledge, you can always pledge more. Just submit another pledge to be added to your existing pledges. If you make a mistake in your pledge, you can e-mail me at [email protected] before August 3rd. If you want to back out of your pledge… well, I won’t have any legal way of enforcing this contract, but if you welch on your bill, you’re a schmuck!

When will I find out whether you’ve gathered enough pledges for the full revision?

The pledge drive ends at noon on August 3rd. Sometime that day, I’ll e-mail everyone who pledged with the results, as well as post an announcement to Politics without God.

How do I pay?

You’ll be able to pay via PayPal, or you can send a check or money order. I prefer PayPal, but paper methods are fine too. (I will collect the pledges, then split those funds evenly with Ari Armstrong.)

Will my pledge be tax-deductible?

No. The Coalition for Secular Government is a non-profit corporation in Colorado, but the paperwork required by the federal government for tax-exemption is simply too burdensome.

What if I’m not satisfied with the policy paper?

If the policy paper doesn’t offer the value you expected, then we will void your pledge and refund any money paid. All that you have to do is e-mail me explaining why you’re dissatisfied.

Why are you doing this?

Ari Armstrong and I have devoted much time and effort to battling the religious right, but we have many demands on our time. We want to make sure that others value the work that we’re doing, and we want to be fairly paid for that work.

What do I do if I have some other question?

Please e-mail me at [email protected]. I’ll update these questions to clarify as needed.

Activism Recap

Jul 252010

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

This week on Politics without God, the blog of Coalition for Secular Government:

This week on Modern Paleo Blog, the blog of Modern Paleo:

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