Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Broken Window Fallacy

Those who live in The People's House should not throw bricks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Sense of History: The Lansdowne Portrait

Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and is in a very bad humor with me because I insist on waiting until the large picture of Gen. Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvass taken out it is done, and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping. And now, dear sister, I must leave this house, or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it, by filling up the road I am directed to take. When I shall again write you, or where I shall be tomorrow, I cannot tell!!

Dolley Madison to her sister, August 23rd/24th, 1814

George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart 1796

More on the primary source document can be found here.

A detailed study of the portrait can be found here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

CT Flash Tour 2011

What do Philip Johnson’s Glass House, Ticket to Ride, The Mystic Aquarium, and the USS Nautilus have in common?  Two things I can think of: they’re all in Connecticut and my family enjoyed them all over one of my famous, crazy 24-hour flash tours this weekend.

First the Glass House.

Philip Johnson's weekend retreat: The Glass House, 1949
I’ve made attempts – at least once a year – to go on a tour of the property since it opened four years ago.  It was either sold out (most frequently) or we didn’t have the time.  I really wanted to bring the girls with us because I think it’s good for them to experience examples of good design in order to cultivate a sense of appreciation for it, especially when we live in organized chaos. 

I was not mistaken – they loved it and were particularly enamored of the outdoor rooms meticulously designed by Johnson himself! 

The pond and climbing structure as one view from the Glass House.

Overall, Johnson’s Glass House is quite similar in layout to the ultra modern prefab box homes that I covet, but with much more glass, much less kitchen, and as of yet, unimagined  environmental control of every view – which is really saying something when all the walls are made of glass.

Mies van der Rohe was a friend and his
Farnsworth House was an influence on Johnson's design.

The modern architecture, the numerous follies, and the controlled landscaping made the trip well worth the significant price. We included the modern art collection in our tour, but all agreed on its sheer insanity.  Overall, it was a great experience!  (Thanks for the inspiration, Earl!)

One of the two "art" galleries on the property.
Its structure, including its play on light, was ingenious, if not waterproof.

Then things went south.

Actually, we went east from the tony New Canaan, CT to the very depressed New London area. Frankly, it was a little dicey, but when making reservations in an unknown area, it’s rather a crapshoot. Things ended well as we headed toward the beach for fireworks and the Fab Four. As we walked down the little boardwalk of the sad honky-tonk Ocean Beach Park area, it absolutely reminded me and Stephen of The Willows – a little depressed seaside park in Salem, but it was not as familiar as these weren’t our people (as types, they were the same, but we had no hope of having gone to high school with any of the smoking, drinking, inked-up folks we saw – and about this, we were happy). 

Some decent fireworks.
Anyway, when we saw the overweight older guys on the stage doing sound checks, we were a little more depressed than when we had walked in – but twenty minutes later they emerged, in 60s suits and bowl haircuts and sang and played their hearts out!  They were actually really good! Stephen, Victoria, and I sang all the songs OUT LOUD and Katy wished she were somewhere else.  After the fireworks, we watched the fellas come back out in their Sgt. Pepper’s era costumes and sang ourselves out to the parking lot.  They were a delightful surprise.

Ticket to Ride: A Beatles Tribute Band
Bad pictures of good music. 
Regarding the hotel, I’m just going to say that I clearly don’t understand the sleep number bed system and leave it at that.

The next morning we headed to the Mystic Aquarium. As so often happens when the children are five years apart, I had mistakenly checked off “aquarium” as experienced by my youngest when she had actually never been! Oh, the parental shame.

Touching slimy things: all part of growing up.
Well, we changed all that. She watched the three beluga whales, the black-footed penguins, touched the rays, sea stars, marveled at the hugeness of the sea lions and the pups (one we named Bob because he bobbed his torpedo like shape up and down vertically in the water), examined wildly different sized jellies, and oddly, fed free flying birds from a stick.  The reason this is odd is because I’m not really sure what the birds had to do with an aquarium, but it was really fun. The Cockatiels, parrots, and parakeets loved Stephen and one tried to come home with me in my purse. No one but me wanted to bother to go in the bird house, and it ended up being a big hit.
Beluga. Not sure if it's Baby.

Bob, the sea lion pup.

I just like bright orange and cobalt blue.

Stephen attracts all his birds by wearing Objectivism
on his sleeve. Or chest, as the case may be. 

Finally, we headed back a little west to hit the USS Nautilus Museum. The Nautilus was the first nuclear powered submarine in the world and is now docked in Groton, CT offering tours of its spacious interior. Frankly, I was concerned that I would get claustrophobic just being inside the darn thing – even with it open and the air moving! But I distracted by the incredibly condensed interior, the 1960s dummies they used to simulate the crew, and 1950s pin-up girls designed to represent the ladies back home. Stephen pointed out that on one control panel, all that was labeled for the viewer was the “cup holder.”

18" drawers to sleep in. Fun.

I think that's Ava Gardner.

Guess who took this picture.

We had actually toured another sub, the USS Albacore, which now sits in a ditch in Portsmouth NH in 2004 or so and in 2008, Stephen toured an active nuclear sub in Groton as part of ESGR employer support appreciation in 2008.

That concludes our CT Flash Tour 2011. I hope you enjoyed it at least a fraction of how much I did.

Next up: Newport in a Day.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Obama, Creating the Market in His Own Image

President Obama spoke Monday regarding the need for car makers to understand that people don't want SUVs and trucks! They want to save money! They want fuel efficient vehicles! Why are those silly car makers bothering to spend money on research and marketing when the president is around to help them suss things out?

At one point he actually had the audacity to say, "You have got to understand the market."

And just in case the market, which is already far from free, does not respond in the manner the Commander in Chief thinks is appropriate, here is his administration's plan to help shape that Medium and Heavy Duty Engines and Vehicles market. All 958 pages of it. Grab a pot of coffee and enjoy. It's for your own good, you know.

His approach to the market reminds me of something. Now what was that? Oh yes:
"Do you believe?" he cried.
Tink sat up in bed almost briskly to listen to her fate.
She fancied she heard answers in the affirmative, and then again she wasn't sure.
"What do you think?" she asked Peter.
"If you believe," he shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't let Tink die."
Many clapped.
Some didn't.
A few beasts hissed.*  
I hate to be a beast, but no amount of clapping will make an artificial market viable beyond its special, governmentally-induced bubble. And even there, it's subject to the constant pin pricks of reality. (See Evergreen Solar)

*J.M. Barrie in Peter Pan

Monday, August 15, 2011

Part of the Problem

As one of the self-described “mega-rich” in this country, Warren Buffett tries to make a compelling case regarding the inequality of tax laws and “other blessings” which he complains “are showered upon us by legislators in Washington” in today's New York Times.

 “Most wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering,” he states of his fellow ultra wealthy brethren.  

Where is the controversy here? More importantly, where is the connection?  It's as if Mr. Buffett thinks that our economy can be fixed by throwing more money into the government coffers! Then do it, Mr. Buffett! No one is stopping you or your really swell mega-rich compatriots from giving all of your money away!  This will hardly make a dent in our national debt. But go ahead! Go for it! That's your choice. And your personal choice is not news.

The newsworthiness of this piece lies in the fact that people like Mr. Buffett – in ideology rather than necessary wealth – think they can decide who, by virtue of his wealth, should pay more, give more, sacrifice more to keep the state running. This appeal to our shared sacrifice in feeding the beast of big government completely disregards the proper function of government: the protection of individual rights and its manifest equality for each individual under the law. I don't know enough about tax laws to suggest that he is wrong about the percentages of taxes paid; however, by implying that rich people – as defined by whomever is making the statement at the time – owe a greater percentage because they are rich, and worse, supporting the idea that the proper role of the government of the United States of America is to determine how much wealth is too much wealth, Mr. Buffett is part of the problem, not the solution.

He begins his slippery slope of “pain” distribution with the 400 “mega-rich” – of whom he is a part, thereby lending his claims an air of noble leadership rather than the naked arrogation they are – and ends with the over 200,000 households he suggests aren’t paying enough taxes by stating, “It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

Mr. Buffett is apparently an excellent investor, but, like our President, has the putrid soul of a collectivist.

It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there's someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.

Ayn Rand “The Soul of a Collectivist,” For the New Intellectual, 73 (via the Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

3 Good Things (Uncommon Goods Edition)

In a fit of trying to rid the house of unnecessary items (only to bring in more unnecessary items at a later date when I forget why I threw a fit to get rid of the other stuff in the first place) I don't do as much catalog shopping as I used to. In fact, other than Lands End - who might NEVER remove me from their mailing list for reasons only they can understand - a scant three companies bother to send catalogs to my house on a regular basis: Bas Bleu, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store, and Uncommon Goods.  I love them all!

Here are a few of the things in Uncommon Goods that I won't buy but am very happy to know exist in the world for others to buy (or make):

1. The F-bomb Paperweight

The possibility of dropping this rather than its namesake in front of my neighbor's kids gives me further reason to break out my welding kit.

2. Personalized Couple Pillow

I could draw a certain cartoonish likeness of folks, but my more crafty friends could definitely make these delightfully personalized gifts. (Christmas idea.)

3. Renewal Tree Globes

Yes, the names make them a little new-agey, but I have a thing for glass, light, colors, globes, and trees.  Put them all together and call me enchanted! They remind me of my bloggy friend's lovely tree pendants.

Friday, August 12, 2011

BC: Before Computers

An out-of-commission laptop led to dueling Heinleins, instead.
(The cover of my book has a man in a kilt in case you were wondering.) 

Original Dueling Laptops here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Working-Man's Mr. Darcy

I finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1854-55 serialized novel, North and South, last week and spent one glorious weekend with the BBC interpretations of her Cranford and North & South.

I lifted the title of this post directly from the character biography on IMDb, but only because it was so perfectly in line with what I had been thinking: Although Ms. Gaskell was writing forty years after Ms. Austen, one cannot help but compare her romantic hero, Mr. John Thornton, with the latter's paragon of Regency romance. Having more of an intriguing perpetual scowl than sigh-invoking love-look, John Thornton is a serious manly man who never had time to cultivate the formalities of romantic attachments yet still had the serious (mis)fortune to fall hard in love with a young woman who always spoke her mind.

Richard Armitage as BBC's Mr. Thornton.

Original love-god, Colin Firth as BBC's Mr. Darcy

Sadly, unlike Mr. Darcy—who had the literary orphan advantage—Mr. Thornton had some mommy issues which disturbed me immensely, and yet, not even this strong ick-factor was enough to relegate him to the bin of unworthy man-boys which so plague modern literature, not to mention modern life.

While I, perhaps more than most, do enjoy a good “I am so intense I could consume you with my eyes” willful stare, the best part of Mr. Thornton was his unapologetic drive to create a successful cotton mill business on his own terms. Using principled efforts to ensure that his mills not merely survive, but thrive during the nascent industrial revolution and workers’ strikes, Mr. Thornton, much like Donna Summer's heroine, worked hard for his money. Being questioned by a friend regarding his treatment of his workers and his strong objection to acts of parliament and all legislation affecting your mode of management,” Mr. Thornton answered:
You know the proverb, Mr. Hale, "Set a beggar on horseback, and he'll ride to the devil,"--well, some of these early manufacturers did ride to the devil in a magnificent style--crushing human bone and flesh under their horses' hoofs without remorse. But by-and-by came a re-action, there were more factories, more masters; more men were wanted. The power of masters and men became more evenly balanced; and now the battle is pretty fairly waged between us. We will hardly submit to the decision of an umpire, much less to the interference of a meddler with only a smattering of the knowledge of the real facts of the case, even though that meddler be called the High Court of Parliament.
This early industrialist saw the big picture, which really means that this mid-19th century novelist seemed more or less to adopt the trader principle and understand the destructive intrusion of government in such matters

Gaskell deserves her resurgence in popularity for that alone.

While there was a magical influx of cash at the last minute, Mr. Thornton was sadly resigned to accept his defeat as the product of his efforts. The last scene in the movie better captured what I thought was the book’s short shrift of the love story’s resolution, but the book better described Mr. Thornton the trader, the master, the man.

Miss Hale kisses Mr. Thornton's hand. The End.
You can read the entire book here and listen to it here.

Here is a pretty funny blog post (from which I copied many pictures) that “isn't anything but a thinly veiled excuse to post lots of pictures of pretty people and kissing,” so I like it.
Miss Bennet kisses Mr. Darcy's hand. Almost the end.

(Thanks to Diana Hsieh and Lady Baker  for the recommendation.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Objectivist Round Up #212

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Objectivist Round Up:  A somewhat smaller, but nonetheless strong showing of what some Objectivist bloggers have been writing about (or talking about) this week.

Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore presents Podcast #17: Brainstorming a Parenting Problem posted at Cultivating the Virtues, saying, “In this podcast, Jenn and Kelly brainstorm a real-life parenting problem and come up with several options for handling it.”

Toby Selwyn presents Changing Minds I: Discrimination Laws posted at One for One, saying, “The first in my series of articles debunking some of the work I wrote four years ago on my atheist blog of the time, A Load of Bright.”

Rob Abiera presents The problem with taxes posted at The Oklahoma Capitalist, saying, “The problem with taxes is: they aren't voluntary - as illustrated by an editorial in the local newspaper.”

Diana Hsieh presents Does the Right to Life Trump Property Rights? posted at NoodleFood, saying, “Does the right to life trump property rights? I explain why not.”

Miranda Barzey presents Simple Activism for Shy People: Promoting Ideas without the Stress posted at Building Atlantis, saying, “Simple advice for those who want to help promote Objectivism, but are too shy or introverted for most face-to-face activist tactics (debating, handing out pamphlets, making speeches).”

Gene Palmisano presents Misnomer of the Day posted at The Metaphysical Lunch, saying, “More word play from the irrational pragmatists in our midst. Check out my podcast: The Anecdotal Objectivist.”

David Masten presents Ignorance is NOT Bliss! posted at Blazing Truth, saying, “This is the last I want to hear of the cliche' "ignorance is bliss". Let's bury it once and for all through an analysis of the famous mantra's origins in Alexander Pope and Thomas Gray.”

Paul Hsieh presents Government Response to Medical Student Debt? posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, “Will the government use the medical student "debt bubble" to control future doctors' practices? ”

Kelly Elmore presents Rhetoric: Who Needs It? posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, “There is not value-less truth, no communication without connotation, and choosing how to phrase something, how to speak effectively is not dishonest, it's rhetoric.”

Santiago and Kelly Valenzuela presents Famous Immigrant of the Week posted at Mother of Exiles, saying, “Check out our new weekly feature, Famous Immigrant of the Week! So far we've featured Irving Berlin and Andrew Carnegie.”

Ari Armstrong presents MoveOn Smears Lamborn for Invoking African Tar Baby Folklore posted at Free Colorado, saying, “On the origins of the African tar baby story -- and the modern political debates about it.”

As for me and my hosting privileges, I’d like to leave you with this thought from Ayn Rand:

The businessman’s tool is values; the bureaucrat’s tool is fear.

From “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 48 (Read more here via the Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

That concludes this week's Objectivist Round Up. For past and future hosts, see here


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jonathan Banks on Menstruation

Goofball educational film from the 70s: Fifteen year-old gets her first period and her slacker boyfriend writes a report about it. His ability to withstand her constant chatter about her period is more convincing when we see him have to carry home a partially bagged jumbo Kotex package for his mother.

Despite the goofiness of the missing wastebasket “problem,” the pharmacist who lays out all the feminine protection choices, and the pony-tailed man who would like to have his period, the movie ends up being able to impart some decent information about menstruation in an oddly humorous and matter-of-fact manner.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Frodo Baggins Pied a Terre

I would have used the hyphenated word had I wanted to discuss a quaint walk-up in the Shire. Alas, this is truly about a foot on the ground: specifically my bare foot on the hot, hot ground.

Yes, this is about burn/friction blisters the size of half-dollars on the both feet from barefoot running!

It was only a 400m barefoot warm-up run, which I have done several times since the barefoot running clinic.  Some of the time it was at 7 in the morning or 7 at night, but the initial barefoot run was done at 3:00 on a wicked hot day!  At 3:00 the heat is radiating back from the pavement surface making it even hotter, and yet, I had no problem on that day.

Yesterday, however, I burned the hell out of both feet. I will spare you further description except to add that I am walking like a fragile old lady trying not to pop the gigantic blisters and invite infection which results in death (as warned by my mother).

The good news is that the huge blisters are in the right spot, on the ball of each foot, showing that I’m running correctly. The bad news is that I probably have second degree burns on the bottoms of both feet showing that I’m not thinking correctly.

I should have figured that the transition from skin as soft as a baby’s bottom to hobbit feet was going to take a lot longer than ten days.

Live and learn. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Distinguished Household

According to a New York Times article and its interactive info-graphic, last week my household was like over 500,000 other households in the US with a married couple and three kids, two under the age of 18.  

Then, when one of my daughters turned 18, our household became less common, if you will, with a married couple and three kids, but only one under the age of 18.  

As my son prepares to move out into his own house, we are left with the fact that we are soon to become a household like over 1% of the households in this country. 

Even more frightening is the fact that as my daughter heads out to college, our type household will become quite commonplace: a married couple with one child under the age of 18 – similar to over 5% of the households in the country. 

Staring down that sea of sameness and struggling, somehow, to distinguish ourselves, we came up with a plan.