Sunday, July 31, 2005


I enjoyed The Fantastic Four.
I hope there's a sequel - so I can see more.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Pluto Plus or Minus

Some scientists say they found our tenth planet. They say it's bigger than Pluto, and three times as far from the sun as Pluto.

The guy who found it has proposed a name for it. But they're keeping that secret. I think we need to get some investigative journalists working on this story.

There's also talk of revoking Pluto's planet privileges. Some say it's just a pseudo-planet because it's smaller than the rest and has a weird orbit.

If they drop the count to eight
I plan to call it PlanetGate.
Who would dare call Pluto
Simply pseudo?

Thursday, July 28, 2005


I very recently learned that many ARI affiliated Objectivists now take the position that you are either certain or not - that there are no degrees of certainty. From researching this a bit today on the web, I think this derives from a careful reading of Leonard Peikoff's book on Objectivism. He may not quite take this position in his book, but he says something that can be interpreted this way.

I was surprised at the "no degrees of certainty" position, because I remembered Rand speaking of "degrees of certainty." I went looking and found a couple of very specific references where she did indeed speak of degrees of certainty.

So they have drifted a bit from Rand's particular formulation of her philosophy on this one tiny issue. You might say it doesn't matter, that it's just semantics. Perhaps so. They have decided to use "certainty" to mean "absolute certainty." So what? Would it even have mattered to Rand? Perhaps not.

But you can see where this might throw an old person like me, who read everything Rand ever published, multiple times, long before Peikoff wrote his book. When I hear them speak of certainty as having no degrees, it sounds like a different concept of certainty than hers.

This is a small change, but my sense is that there are many other similar changes. I have to admit, I don't follow ARI affiliated forums closely. But when I drop in for a read I am often very surprised by my own lack of deja vu.

As for me
I stand
With Rand:
Comes in degrees.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Skyscraper with a Twist

I'm not an architect, but I like the look of the new skyscraper being proposed for Chicago. If you scroll down a bit, there's a pretty good picture in this article.

One architecture critic claimed the graceful design would put the City of Big Shoulders in touch with "its feminine side."

It would be the tallest building in North America.

It's tall, twisting sliver
Gives me the shivers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Invisible Man

I've started in on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which I'm reading for the book club I'm in.

I suppose I shouldn't judge a book on its first 20 pages, but I'm not in love with it yet.

I'm actually a bit puzzled by the central metaphor of invisibility. I don't think it was ever the case that bigoted whites didn't look at black people. Perhaps Ellison just means that white people don't understand black people - don't see them as they really are.

I think the mutual misunderstandings are often extensive. The press is NOT especially good at helping to bridge the culture gaps, either. I suppose they're just worried about saying the wrong thing. It's one of those controversial third-rail topics.

We live side by side
Across a divide.

So much shared history.
Why all the mystery?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Japanese not Chinese

I talked to a Chinese person at work. He indicated the mystery characters were a mix of Chinese and Japanese - which just means it's Japanese, since the Japanese have a complicated writing system that includes a lot of Chinese characters. My friend could make out a word for mountain and a word for moving from left to right.

So at lunch I went to the main library and started trying to figure it out from Japanese-English dictionaries. I had made only primitive progress after twenty minutes.

Then I saw an Asian gentleman browsing the Japanese book section. I asked him if he could read the characters. He certainly could.

Well, it has words for Mountain Rock, and some part of your leg, but he wasn't sure what they were trying to say in the last few characters. He could pronounce the last few characters - which were Japanese sound-it-out writing, I guess - but he wasn't sure what they were trying to say.

Based on all this, I speculate that the characters say some equivalent or some part of Rock'n'Sole Trail Challenge - which was the name of the race.

I ran in a hot, hilly race
Then went on a wild goose chase
Attempting to glean
What the characters mean
That fill up my shirt's frontal space.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hot on the Trail

Did the Rock'n'Sole this morning, a not-quite-5-mile race which goes up and down (and up and down) some very uneven forest preserve trails.

I was a couple of minutes faster than the last time I did it. But, boy was I hot. Today was a 100 degree day in Chicago, and, let me tell you, it was NOT a dry heat.

It wasn't really 100 yet at 9 a.m. when we ran, but it was getting there. When the race was done I kept taking water cups and pouring them over my head, trying to cool down.

I got a nice yellow tee shirt in my race packet with red Chinese characters on it. At least, I think it's Chinese. I don't know what they say. I guess I should bring it to work. I have a couple of Chinese co-workers, one a Cantonese speaker and one a Mandarin speaker. They can probably tell me whether it's really Chinese, and, if so, what it means. You can see the characters by clicking on the link above.

Maybe it says: Don't run
When it's over 91.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Armstrong Again

Lance Armstrong has locked up his 7th Tour de France.

Tomorrow's the last official day of the race, but that's a mostly ceremonial ride into Paris. Today was the last day that really counted.

It was an Individual Time Trial race today - which means that you truly race alone, as an individual, with no team to help you. With no one - not even a competitor - to ride behind at all.

(Above 16 mph or so, one of the main impediments to bicycle speed is air resistance. In team cycling, riders take turns being the person out front who pedals really hard to break the air resistance. It is much easier to ride behind somebody else, which is called "drafting.")

So Lance rode on his own. And won.

You know, he sure has a name that sounds like a super-hero.

His mama named him "Armstrong, Lance".
Is it wrong to suspect she knew in advance?


Tonight I went to see SlowAnna, Jeremy Menekseoglu's latest play. I found it quite moving.

It's about a teacher who comes to a school for problem children, who tries to actually reach and teach them. It is more macabre than sugarcoated, but in the end I found it both uplifting and tear-provoking. The whole production felt tightly focused - moreso than some of Dream Theatre's other work.

The acting was intense, but not over the top. Colby Sellers was magnetically compelling as the school's peculiar principal, and Anna Weiler just lit up the stage as the victimized but finally triumphant Johanna.

I liked the performance so much that I'm tempted to see it again.

I'm predicting fame
Even though it's hard to say his name.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Talking About Problems With Friends

In her article, The Psychology Of Psychologizing, Ayn Rand wrote:

"Allowing for exceptions in special cases, it is not advisable to discuss one's psychological problems with one's friends. Such discussions can lead to disastrously erroneous conclusions (since two amateurs are no better than one, and sometimes worse) -and they introduce a kind of medical element that undercuts the basis of friendship. Friendship presupposes two firm, independent, reliable and responsible personalities."

Judging from Valliant's book, she had nonetheless spent a lot of time trying to help "patients" of her own - including Nathaniel Branden.

But this passage was written after the break up, so it looks like a re-consideration of her own practice.

It reminds me of that country song, the one where the singer keeps telling you very specific do's and don'ts, but avoids mentioning that he learned his lessons the hard way. It ends like this: "Don't drink the water in Mexico. Don't ask me how I know."

As to the issue of talking about problems with friends,
I think it all depends.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Beyond Help

I was at the bookstore and noticed two recent books with similar themes.

Sham: How The Self Help Movement Made America Helpless

One Nation Under Therapy: How The Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance

Upon reflection, their themes look a bit different. One looks like it attacks Helping Yourself. The other looks like it attacks Helping Others.

Apparently help
Is bad in itself.

The Machinist

I wanted to get Hitch at the video store, on [info]tyalangan's recommendation, but it was out.

So I got The Machinist, which someone recommended, but I'm sleepy and I don't recall who it was - which is an excellent lead-in to the story itself, which is a nightmare version of something by Dostoevsky.

A poor insomniac
Seems to be under attack
From a man that only he
Can see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Team America

I finally watched Team America tonight. Great acting! Funny, too, in that horribly crude but nonetheless endearingly intelligent sort of way.

A lot of people watched it at Summer Seminar 2005, but I missed it somehow.

It has special effects
Like puppet sex.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Really the Last Partiers

Actually, Don Parrish was still here earlier today. He spent yesterday doing genealogy research. He has a colonial ancestor who owned a local island. The island was a gift from the Mohawks. The name of the island had changed since then, so he was having trouble tracking it down.

Finally someone told him to go ask "that know-it-all" up the road.

And the know-it-all in fact did know.

Now there's no one in this building but us and the security guards. Don is gone. The Anderson's are gone. I guess we should finally call it a week.

We relished thee,
But now we flee
Thy company.

Okay, as it applies to the town proper, "relished"
Is way over-embellished.

Anyway, everyone's gone
And the fun
Is done.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Last Participants Standing

Marsha and I are still at the Summer Seminar 2005, as are Wayne and Julie Anderson. Everyone else seems to be gone already. Which puts us in charge.

We decided it was a second "Day Off" so we went canoeing on the Mohawk river in a big eighteen foot canoe that seated four.

We can't have two "Days Off" in a row,
So tomorrow, at last, we will Go.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Painting in Depth

Michael Newberry spoke today on: A Quest For Sensuality, Truth, and Exaltation Through Art.

Somehow I ended up writing this while he spoke:

To draw the world's lines,
To paint the places where it's dark
And where it shines.

Whether lush or stark
To let it leap
Into space.

So deep - it seems a dream,
More real than real.

At last you see and feel
The secret face of life.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Poetry Workshop

Virginia Walker ran an interesting Poetry Workshop as a Participant Session. She let us randomly select from a pile of newspaper clippings she had brought. Then we were supposed to think of what images the story evoked in us, for possible future use in a poem.

She believes that Imagery is the essential thing in poetry.

I drew a story about the Eminent Domain controversy, and how Democrats, who position themselves as fighting for the little guy, were at first in favor of taking away the little guy's house to build a mall, but then guardedly starting saying it was a problem that needed to be studied. I thought of a castle or a house crumbling to its foundations. Then, after a bit of fumbling, I wrote this:

They blustered and blew
And the Pig's house fell down.
He cried "What can I do?
The wolves run the town!"

The wolves said: "Stay cool.
You don't have to holler.
We'll look at that rule.
Oh. And here's your five dollars."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bike of the Day

I like
To bike.

But you all know that. Anyway, a bike path runs behind the place where we're staying at the Summer Seminar in Schenectady.

I didn't have a bike on hand. I had brought a helmet, jersey, and shorts. But not a bike. I thought I'd rent one in Schenectady. Wrong. Nobody rents them here.

Solution: Wal-Mart had a men's mountain bike for 53 dollars and change.

So I bought it and road the bike trail to Albany and back in a little under 8 hours.

Of course, I made stops for food and drink. At one point I stopped at Mickey D's and ordered an iced tea and 2 cheeseburgers.

But I only ate

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Night of January 16th - The Movie

Tonight for the first time I got to see the movie version of Rand's famous play, Night of January 16th. Rand thought it was an awful movie. Of her play, only one line of dialog was left. Something about the court adjourning.

A few elements of the original are left, but none of the abstract meaning, and precious little of the story itself. Bjorn Faulkner remains as a swindler trying to fake his own death.

As Duncan Scott said, after experiencing this sort of butchery the first time something of hers was filmed, it's no wonder she insisted on full control later.

It's kind of like the drama
Suffered a serious trauma.

In this film, her fabulous fiction
Was smashed beyond recognition.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Summer Seminar Marches On

I gave my "Writing and Self-Publishing Unholy Quest" talk today. It was fun. Lots of people in the Objectivist world have a book, or two, or three in them. And I told them just how cheaply they could do it!

[info]madbard did part 1 of his 2-part hit about Objectivist musical aesthetics. He has great stage presence and made us all laugh while also making us think.

He's got some suggestions
About the old question:
How do these notes
Make us emote?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

They're Everywhere

Here I am at the TOC Summer Seminar and I get a pin-on-your-shirt name tag. Tucked inside the name tag is a little slip of paper that says:

"The Mormons know you're here!"

I shake in fear.

(Practical joke courtesy of Karl Zachary.)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Direction Service

For the 3rd time today, someone driving around in a distant state called me for directions. First, my wife called me about which road in NY to take to Schenectady. Then, my son called me asking how to get to Circus Circus in Las Vegas.

And just now, my wife called me asking where the heck she was supposed to go to get her room at Union College. She arrived there after midnight and the place looked dead. I told her the name of the building, and I told her the front desk was closed, because it was so late. I gave her the phone number for security, which handles after-hours check-in. In each case, I was able to help by using the Internet. Ain't technology grand?

Update. She's in the room and just said hello to [info]1188. The dormitory is a converted Ramada Inn, but the mattresses are covered in plastic, so I need to bring extra sheets or something.

After an all-day drive
Marsha arrived
Alive and well
To greet the hell
Of plastic sheets.


I visited once. I rode their tubes. It felt to me like it could have been me.

But what really touched me for some reason was this story and photo about the Union Jack being flown at the State Department today. They say it's the first time a foreign flag has ever flown there.

The story also says that after 9/11, "Queen Elizabeth ordered her personal guards to play The Star Spangled Banner instead of God Save The Queen."

It's poignant, right after our Independence Day, to have this kind of reminder of America's lasting bond with the mother country of political liberty.

Long ago we gave their royalty the finger,
But somehow loyalty lingers.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fair Warning

By the way, don't pick up Augustine's Confessions
If you want something juicy. Mostly it's digressions
About God and philosophy. Now and then some facts
Of his life creep in. But it kind of lacks
Excitement. So he steals some pears
From a tree? Big deal! As for love affairs,
He has exactly two. He admits that he likes being praised,
But loves his mom, who tried to raise him Catholic.
My stomach's sick.
My eyes are glazed.


Tonight at book club we discussed St. Augustine's Confessions. I was struck once again by this:

Augustine believes the intellect will not find truth unless directed toward the truth by the will.

Rand believes the intellect will not find truth unless directed toward reality by the will.

In other words, both say persuasion
Is hardly a match for evasion.

It's a funny parallel.
And now I'm going to hell.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Best Effort

Larry was born in the Land of the Liars.
If you tell the truth there, they throw you in the fire!

Thomas was born to the Tribe of the True.
If you tell a lie there, they beat you black and blue!

Now both live as honest men.
Are their honors equal then?

Or, is there extra credit
And Larry gets it?

Monday, July 04, 2005

More Fireworks

What a Fourth of July bash!
NASA sent a probe to crash
Into a comet.

While part of the probe dive-bombed it
The mother ship filmed away
Recording celestial fireworks
For Independence Day.

Story and photo here.


We went to the downtown lakefront tonight to see the fireworks. It was a fairly short display, maybe 20 minutes, but super spectacular. It was sort-of-synchronized with music playing on the classical station. What a mob scene. At least it seemed less jammed than the '76 bi-centennial fireworks in New York.

It's the first time I've been home for the 4th since 1997. TOC somehow got in the habit of booking their summer seminars to include Independence Day. It's a good Objectivist holiday, but a couple of times the seminar was in Canada, which really took the air out of the holiday.

Our neighbors to the north
Don't do much for the 4th!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bye Jake

The triathlon in Wisconsin went fine.

On my way home, my wife buzzed my cell, and she gave me the bad news that my older dog, Jake, had died during the night.

Jake came from the pound.
Half Huskie, Half Rottweiler.
No one pushed him around.
You could try to push him,
But he was like a tree, rooted to the ground.

Yeah, I miss him.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Real Life vs Blog Life

[info]madbard made some interesting observations the other day about what it's like to meet someone in real life that you've only known from blog life. That got me to thinking how different I might seem to someone who had only met me here in the blogosphere.

I don't really make a rhyme
Every time I have a thought,
But maybe I ought to do that!

Or would I come to rue that?