Saturday, November 29, 2008

Got Art?

Art historian Lee Sandstead has his own show on the Travel Channel called Art Attack. You can see bits of the upcoming shows there as well. Its season starts tomorrow morning, Sunday, November 30 at 9am.

Here is an interview with Lee, not about the show, but about his passion about art and artists.



In the show, he's more like the Billy Mays of the art world, but I guess he can't help himself. Art is cool.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New World Peanuts



Am I the only one who has never seen the Peanuts version of the Voyage of the Mayflower? It was on last night after the 1973 Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving. Apparently, it was part of a series called This is America that ran between 1988 and 1989. Somehow, I missed the entire series. I don't know if it's the presence of the adults, or the Peanuts Gang in semi-historical clothing, but I found it slightly disconcerting. Not nearly as good as Schoolhouse Rock, but worth a watch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jane and Baseball

Recently, I was introduced to a blog for Jane Austen fans. I stopped by and had to share this hilarious tidbit (beginning at 1:50) from Stephen Colbert.



This is good stuff, so I've added the blog to my sidebar. Thanks, Fiddler.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Random Six

Really, I’m nothing if not compliant.

Okay, so I’m not usually compliant at all. In fact, what is the opposite of compliant? Pain in the ass? Yes, that’ll do. Normally, I’m a pain in the ass, but as the request from AmyMossoff is just one of the little things, I figured I’d give it another shot.

Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write 6 random things about yourself.
4. Tag 6-ish people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know he/she has been tagged.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Numbers 1. and 2. are taken care of above.

3.

1) My left eye is tremendously far-sighted with a serious astigmatism. My right eye is slightly near-sighted. This means that when I wear my glasses my left eye appears quite a bit larger and my right eye appears somewhat smaller than they really are. Yup. Just call me googly-eyes. Don’t really. I won’t respond.
2) My pre-teen alias was Jacqui Nestlé.
3) I hold my pen as if I have been trained to write at Ug’s School for Cavemen.
4) I am obsessed with concrete as a residential building material.
5) My teeth hurt when I think about the applications of ‘4)’
6) I wouldn’t make a good spy because when I walk down stairs, noises emanating from my knees could wake the dead. I’m pretty sure that is the only reason.

4. Since I already tagged Kim, Fiddler and Stephen, was marginally successful with TheAestheticCapitalist, and not successful with Manoj or C. August the last time I tried to induce anyone to divulge six things about her- or himself, I would like to share this challenge with Shez, Deb, Beth, Sue, Janelle, and Trixy. [All right. Those last two are just friends of Jacqui – see ‘2)’.] If any of the aforementioned previously tagged bloggers want to play, or anyone who reads this, has not been tagged, but would like to, please consider this your invitation and let me know in the comments so I can be sure to read your list.

5. Does this mean more than writing this in my blog? How shall I get in touch with them? I’ll try it.

6. Okay Amy – it’s up!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thought for the Day

(courtesy of Word a Day)
"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873)

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Popular Oxymoron

"I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

"Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

"There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period."

Michael Crichton (1942-2008) from a lecture given in 2003.

Why isn't this better understood?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Inherit the Wind

I had the distinct pleasure of watching a fabulous local production of Inherit the Wind this weekend. Despite my love for all things Spencer Tracy (and Katharine Hepburn), I had never seen the movie. Here for your viewing pleasure is Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond, the fictionalized Clarence Darrow role of the Scopes "Monkey" Trial.



As the authors of the 1955 play, Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee said, "It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow".

Friday, November 14, 2008

Things I Have Recently Discovered to be Lost

My quintessentially-fall orange scarf,
My favorite black velvet dress,
My Precious Metal Clay,
Our Nancy Drew 1930’s/ 1940’s DVD collection.

I wore the scarf early in the month of October, but couldn't find it toward the end. It's bright, but small, and could have easily been misplaced within the house. It may show up yet (passive, I know, but I've looked!), but it runs the risks of having been worn outside the house into the big, big world. The PMC was left in a box on my desk in the kitchen for about a year because I didn’t know what the heck to do with it. I finally cleaned off my desk and it is nowhere to be found. I’m guessing that we lent out the DVD’s, so I’ll do some asking around but, seriously – how does one lose a dress?

Picture this: You own two expensive velvet dresses – synthetic velvet, but they’re expensive nonetheless. You really like those velvet dresses. But you don’t like the expense and effort of getting the velvet dresses dry-cleaned. So you buy a wildly inexpensive synthetic velvet dress (at Sears – I’m not proud) in order to be able to dump it in the washing machine. You find that the dress is so neat looking, can be dressed up or down, actually fits well, is, dare I say, flattering, and is so comfortable to wear, that you amortize the cost per wear to something like $1.25 in the first year! This is your “go to” dress. In short, you love this dress. Then you lose it.

This is not like losing my keys or my glasses which I do approximately 5 times a month each. Those aren’t really lost. They’re just not exactly where they’re supposed to be. But a dress? There are really only so many places that a dress can be.

The worst part of being a loser is that I have a cocktail party to go to on Saturday night. An actual cocktail party – it says so right on the invitation! I would have loved to have worn a dress like the one on Betty Draper (the blonde) for the occasion, as I consider cocktail parties to be right out of the MadMen era, but I would have happily settled for my “go to” dress. Now it looks like I’ll be wearing my jeans, t-shirt, and marled wool sweater coat (also known as my house coat) because over the age of 28, one’s birthday suit is never in style.

If only these things had fit into a 3 Ring Binder.


Update: I really needed to access my inner Nancy Drew on this. Once I figured out the last time I wore the dress, with no less than photographic evidence, I found it hanging out with my husband’s tux in the downstairs closet. Bonus! My orange scarf was wedged in between two as of yet unworn winter coats in there (how it got there, I really can’t explain). The PMC ended up in my de facto sewing area, a corner of the abandoned school room which has become a catch-all for craft projects.

It just proves the adage: A place for everything and everything in its place. When I have more than one viable place to keep my stuff, I’m busted. Now regarding Nancy herself – I’m sticking with this one: Neither a borrower nor a lender be!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Own Central Planning

I just got an interesting newsletter from the local Superintendent of Schools. It reminded me that I should be making or updating our 72-hour emergency kit. I waffle between being bitter that I would need such a thing (for no reason other than I don't remember thinking I needed to have one as a child) and thinking, now there's a really good idea.

Of course it is a good idea. What's the downside to it?

We've gone through the exercise in the past, though incompletely, and have now let our emergency kits get old. I downloaded the lists and suggestions (I've included the links below for you), and am determined to get it started this weekend.

Here are some links to help build your Family Emergency Plan and Kit:

Overall Family Preparedness
Family Emergency Plan
Tri-fold personal plans to carry
Check list for Emergency Supply Kit
Building Your Family's 72 Hour Kit

That last link is good because it suggests 20 weekly activities to build your kit over time.

And of course I recommend keeping these helpful documents in a clearly labeled 3 Ring Binder.

Update: If you'd rather buy than build, Rebecca left a comment for the vendor, shelfreliance. The site has lots of storage systems, food information and recommendations, and pre-made kits, not to mention a clever name.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Road to where, exactly?


I think this little friendly snowman with the sticks full of money says it best: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

This is the image that eHow has used to help explain the Bush Mortgage Bailout Plan - 2007! Not the latest and greatest plan. Is anybody reading this stuff? Exactly how does this help?

"To qualify for the new program, homeowners whose loans are owned or packaged by Fannie and Freddie must be 90 days or more past due on their payments for single-family dwellings in which they live. They must prove hardship, can't be in bankruptcy and their outstanding loan values must be at least 90 percent of their homes' current values."


"The goal could be achieved three ways: The loan could be stretched into a 40-year fixed-rate mortgage; the interest rate could be reduced; and/or money going to the mortgage balance, called the principal, could be deferred interest-free until the end of the loan and recaptured in what's known as a balloon payment. Fannie and Freddie will pay $800 to financial institutions for each loan they modify."
What? What?

So if you really can't pay your mortgage, but haven't pursued the legal avenues currently available to you, and have a house that is way more than you can afford, we'll not only help you by getting you to stay in debt longer, or by requiring you to pay a big lump sum somewhere in the future, we'll even pay the folks a nice fee who do this for you. And by "we" I mean the American taxpayers will foot the bill for your irresponsibility. After all, it's good for the country.

And if you can't get enough of paying for the mistakes of others and eat up the fear pedalled by the bureaucrats, the patriotism drummed by the politicians, and the "sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice" being chanted by the altruists, don't worry, there's plenty more to come. Soon enough we'll be paying to fund the Auto Industry Bailout Plan and maybe even the Mall Bailout Plan.

With all this economic central planning, can serfdom be that far ahead? We've already come so far along the road that we don't even need an external enemy to jump start the process.


(From Hayek's illustrated The Road to Serfdom).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blogect: Sorted Books

Inasmuch as I find "blog" to be an ugly word, I think "blogect" is cute.

I found this project on Homeschooled Twins blog and thought it was really a fun idea. As I am not the fun homeschooler, I kept the idea for myself rather than share it with my child as Shez suggested (okay, I’ll share it with the wee lass later today.)


Here are just a few sorted books in my home right now.



The secret of my success:


The worry and wisdom of middle-age:


And a political one for good measure:


Now that I look these over, I might have to change the order of the titles for clarity (and work on better lighting).

Most importantly, I have to restack those books!

If you try your hand at sorted books, post your efforts and let me know.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why I am an Objectivist

I am a human being who values her life on this earth above all other things. The right and good is that which contributes to my life and the wrong and evil is that which destroys it. Every action I take must pass through the gates of identification before being pursued as a value which I understand will contribute to my life. Happiness is my ultimate goal.

I understand the importance of identifying, applying, pursuing, and achieving those values which will contribute to my life, not just in the immediate sense (which every child understands), but in the long-term sense (which develops with experience). This is not to say that I’m really good at always identifying, pursuing, and achieving those values, or that I remain consistent in my applications of them; merely that I had already understood that this selfishness was the key to my happiness when I was relatively young. The importance of the fact that I understood I was responsible for my own happiness can not be overemphasized here. What I didn’t realize until much later was that this idea was controversial or that it had been developed into a philosophy called Objectivism.

Selfishness

As all children do, at an early age I sought to achieve my own immediate happiness. This is a natural state, often as short-lived and as short-sighted as our experiences will allow and as reality dictates (i.e. how fast your parents can knock it out of you or reality gives you negative feedback). As we mature, we begin to realize that immediate gratification is more like candy than a meal: not fit for a steady diet. (How many of us have dined gleefully and exclusively on candy only to throw up later? I know I have.) Indulging childish whims is not selfishness – it is self-destructive.

It is unfortunate that the immediate gratification stage of a child is most often mistakenly identified as “selfishness”. As we begin to interact with others, and more importantly, to appreciate some people as values in and of themselves, we learn that achieving our own happiness may often include the happiness of those we hold as valuable (as in friendship and love). When I value someone, their happiness is also important to me. I want them to be happy for selfish reasons. This is in keeping with my desire to be happy rather than in conflict with it. If you can not divorce the word “selfish” from the castigations of youth, then “rational self-interest” may be used in its place. Upon being introduced to Objectivism, I preferred to redress my mistake and properly define selfishness as the key to not only life, in and of itself, but moreover, to a happy life.

With experience, we begin to broaden our identification of things that will make us happy. We pursue longer term values which are important to us - truth, knowledge, friendship, love, health, etc. – and begin to apply those values to our decision making process. This identification and application brings satisfaction, a form of happiness. Our increasing abilities to accurately assess things, proves the efficaciousness of our minds and lessens internal conflicts. A rational approach to life, that in which the application of reason and logic based upon our understanding of the way the natural world works, in turn brings happiness.

Altruism

It is important to note that altruism is the antithesis to selfishness. Altruism is the “unselfish concern for the welfare of others” and is in disastrous, direct conflict with rational self-interest. This is not a definition of convenience, but the actual meaning of altruism. I reject altruism in every form.

When someone is repeated told that he must put the welfare of others before himself, he begins to develop a sense that his worth is somehow linked with his concern for others, extending as far as those unknown to them, and unidentifiable by the values they hold – as if each human being is responsible for the life of every other human being regardless of that other’s choices, values, or morality. This moral code dictates that one reject cause and effect and assume that every human being, by virtue of being a human being is worthy of his efforts in the form of his time, money, and consideration before he, or his loved-ones are worthy of his efforts.

If you care about others at your own expense, shortly, you will be depleted. The destructiveness of altruism is really that simple, and should in no way be confused with the concern of others based on your own self-interest, nor should it be confused with simple good will or benevolence.

Consistency with Reality

We’ve all heard, “You can’t fight City Hall.” In fact, no matter how complicated and messy it may seem, you can fight against any man-made system in existence. What you can’t fight are the rules of physics, chemistry, biology, geology…natural laws. We can and should try to understand those immutable laws and make them work for us, but you can’t alter the facts of reality. Objectivism, at its foundation, requires adherence to reality.

While this sounds self-evident, I was surprised to discover that not all philosophies are based on reality. Mystics base their philosophies on unknowable, unworldly magic-guy-in-the-sky morality whereas skeptics base their philosophies on the lack of absolutes – a “nothing is knowable”, “anything goes” morality. Objectivism does not lie between the two, but rather identifies through reason that we know what exists by adjusting our thinking to reality, not that reality mirrors our thinking.

There are absolutes, both good and bad. Being able to identify the good (that which contributes to human life) and the bad (that which seeks to destroy human life) is critically important.

Intellectual Leadership

I am not an intellectual. No one who knows me or reads this blog needs to be reminded of this fact; I just want you to know that I am painfully aware of this fact as I am writing this piece.

I do, however, know enough about myself and the importance of intellectual leadership in our culture to understand that while I am not yet a very capable person regarding the explanation of the philosophy of Objectivism, I am making efforts to become so. Understanding of philosophical systems requires tremendous effort and study. As someone who has never studied philosophy, I lack ownership of some basic philosophical terms (i.e. metaphysics, epistemology) and I can be trapped by people who are unabashed in their employment of logical fallacies (it can take me some time to recognize and refute them). This is my way of explaining that I am clearly not attempting to be an intellectual spokesperson here.

This being said, the works of Ayn Rand, who developed the philosophy, are the best source if you are interested in exploring Objectivism. I recommend that you read one or all of her works of fictions (there are only four novels and a play, and you needn’t begin with Atlas Shrugged, though it is my favorite). You should visit the Ayn Rand Institute and read her introduction to Objectivism to which I have linked. I do strongly recommend that you read her works prior to reading any applications of her ideas by others and judge for yourself.

I cannot say that identifying myself as an Objectivist has made me a happier person; I grasped the importance of selfishness when I was young, well before I had heard of Ayn Rand. However, I can say that if the promise of religion doesn’t appeal to you, if the uncertainty of skepticism leaves you feeling empty, or if you have embraced the doctrine of altruism all the way to its logical end, the destruction of self, perhaps Objectivism will make you happier. Knowing that Objectivist intellectuals exist does in some small way contribute to my hope for the rest of the world.

In Conclusion

Everything I have read by Ayn Rand only deepens my understanding of exactly how Objectivism is an excellent philosophy based on the morality of the life and sovereignty of the individual man. There is no mysticism or skepticism in Objectivism, and unless you think that conformance with reality and living for your own sake is cultish or too extreme, then Objectivism may resonate with you too. If you choose to live for no man and would not force another man to live for you, but would rather cultivate relationships based on mutual benefit and shared values, then I urge you to read more from Ayn Rand herself.

Objectivism is a philosophy which gives a moral foundation to man’s rational pursuit of happiness – that is why I am an Objectivist.
______________________________

This is just my first attempt on this much larger subject, and is not my last (nor, hopefully, best) word on the matter. I have not touched upon the politics, nor fully developed the metaphysics or epistemology of Objectivism herein, but rather limited my thoughts to the ethics of selfishness as that is what I understand best.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Kay Thompson

Are you a fan of the Eloise books? Are you a fan of Audrey Hepburn movies? If you are, you should really know that Kay Thompson, the writer of the Eloise books is the same Kay Thompson who plays the indomitable Maggie Prescott in the musical Funny Face.



Okay. I wouldn’t give up black or be quite so quick to dismiss chartreuse, but you have to love her. She steals the scene from eveyone but Paris itself in this number "Bonjour Paris!"



As a fan of the Eloise movies, and of Audrey Hepburn, I was thrilled to discover this information only yesterday and be able to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this remarkable woman’s birthday.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

42nd Street

For our friends who were unable to join us today but love a good tap dance number, I present to you a montage of 42nd Street at the North Shore Music Theatre.



Who knew that Lullaby of Broadway, We're in the Money, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, let alone I Only Have Eyes for You (or as Stephen says, I have eyes for only you - it's one of his pet peeves)were in it? I didn't! Sure, the story set woman's lib back a good 30-40 years, but the song and dance numbers were great.

Enjoy! I know I did.

The New Scientists on the Block

Here are President-elect Obama's science advisors. Four out of the five are experts in life science, but that doesn't seem to stop the rush to regulate climate change. He seems to have stacked the deck with non-creationists. Have we come that close toward government sponsored mysticism that that's really necessary - in science advisors?

If you're interested, one of the advisors, Sharon Long, was interviewed in a SciAm podcast. She says she knows nothing about economics or politics and then goes on to talk a little about both. Overall, I liked what she had to say (probably because I like well-spoken scientists). While she didn't say anything about Global Warming, its spectre hung about when she spoke about the limits of science, and Obama's promise to step-up government research funding with our tax dollars. I just hope she wasn't suggesting that regulations should precede the scientifically proven, but somehow, I think she was.

Another little frightening tidbit of an interview with Obama by the ScienceDebate2008:

SD2008: How do you see science, research and technology contributing to improved health and quality of life?

Obama: These are difficult problems, and science and technology can solve only some of them. The effectiveness of medical care can be improved, and its costs can be reduced , by greater emphasis on best practices, electronic medical records, hospital safety, preventive strategies and improved public health surveillance.

Any way you look at it folks, we're in for a bumpy night.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Hear America Singing

by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics--each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat--the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench--the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter's song--the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother--or of the young wife at work--or of the girl sewing or washing--Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day--At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.



Today, somehow, this poem makes me sadder than all of Emily Dickinson's strung together. I think it's the implied pride of each of the singers in what belongs to him. They each had reason to sing. Do we still?

I'll try not to dwell on it too long.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You're Selfish.

You can't help it. Your mother never taught you right from wrong, apparently. She never told you that you must share your toys and be kind to everyone you meet - regardless of your judgment or developing sense of justice. Now you want to keep the money that you've earned for yourself and for your family. You nasty, selfish bastard.

You should have learned that by giving ever increasing amounts of money you've received and saved from your labors (earned) to other people for the simple reason that they have less money than you do (unearned) that you will encourage them to buy things, or encourage them to think they can afford those things...all on your dime. You will not only stimulate the economy you will also feel good about yourself: in fact, you might even feel virtuous.

What fresh hell is this? No, it's not the ghost of your mother's misguided efforts at raising good Christians or her second-handed "what will the neighbors think of my spoiled children" mentality. It's the advice and dire warning of the next presumed POTUS.

Read it here yourself. You know, that is, if you want to be selfish and actually try to improve yourself when you could be spending your time on bettering someone else. Of you could just sit around and rot and wait for the thinkers and producers to bail you out until they're bled dry and then we'll see exactly how morally critical selfishness is.

Now, even I'm offended.

Am I Missing a Chic Gene?



I got this interesting email Halloween morning and it got me to wondering.

I really do like shoes, bags, and other accessories (oddly, not jewelry) as much as the next woman, but c'mon!

Are these bags really that attractive to anyone for the mere price of $2450 (the Jimmy Choo, top center)?

Does anyone actually consider the purchase of these grossly overpriced practical items as an investment?

Are handbags the new real estate?
Am I just missing the point because I don't have that kind of cash to fling around?

Is this an urban vs. suburban vs. exurban priority thing?

Am I just a cranky old witch?

Just wondering.