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Everything posted by Dismuke

  1. Maybe it does. And if one can demonstrate that it is riskier than conventionally grown produce that has had pesticide exposure - well, I would find quite amusing. My point, however, is that, even with a higher risk level, the odds of getting sick from produce, organic or otherwise, in the USA are VERY low and is not something one should be especially worried about if one sees an item of produce that looks good and one wants to buy. Blowing risks out of proportion is a tactic the environmentalists use. It is just as absurd for us to do it in reverse simply because the target is something the environmentalists like to eat. Well, let's see.... the e coli tainted packaged spinach that was pulled off the market several months ago that made people in many states very sick was sold through conventional supermarket chains under a variety of national name brands - including Dole. Taco Bell recently had an e coli outbreak in a handful of states that was traced back to lettuce from a certain supplier in California. Taco Bell supposedly has some of the highest food handling practices in the industry. In both cases, the origin of the e coli was suspected to be the result of the farms being right next to cattle fields where cow patties had tested positive for e coli. In the case of the spinach outbreak, it was belived that wild boars broke through the fencing that separated the spinach field from the cattle and the pigs brought the tainted dung into contact with the spinach. My guess is that the major supermarket chains and Taco Bell would classify as competent professionals. As for erring on the side of caution when it comes to food germs - you might also want to consider not eating out in restaurants. For example, check this warning out. Imagine you were passing through that area of the country and stopped at that restaurant for a bite to eat during the days covered by the warning. A few hours later, you are hundreds of miles away and never hear that warning being issued. Despite the mention that officials in other states have been notified, how many media outlets in your part of the country are going to carry warnings about a restaurant in some podunk town in New York State? Heck, if I ate at a restaurant here in Fort Worth/Dallas that was infected, I might never even know about it because I never watch TV and rarely pay much attention to other local media. And consider what happens when McDonald's employees wash their hands after going to the bathroom. McDonald's, being a Politically Correct company does not have paper towels in most of their restaurants. They have hand dryers. And once one has dried one's hands under the hand dryer, one must use those clean hands to open up the door to exit the bathroom - the same door that people who DO NOT wash their hands after using the bathroom also touched in order to open. The percentage of people who do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom is shockingly high - and it is even higher when there is nobody else in the bathroom with them to observe. I, for one, will NOT touch faucets or door handles in public bathrooms. I grab a piece of paper towel and open it up using that. How many McDonald's employees do you suppose do the same? The fact is, while all of these things are scary and unpleasant to think about, the risk of getting sick at a restauarnt or a McDonalds is very low. And so is the risk of getting sick from buying produce.
  2. I don't doubt for a moment the ideological origins of the organic movement. Nor do I buy into any of that nonsense or have any sort of irrational fear of pesticides and such. If world agriculture suddenly converted to organic, there would be starvation because there would not be enough food to go around. And it would also result in more "wild" land being converted to agriculture - which I am sure the environmentalist would squawk about. Much of New England, for example, as reverted back to wild forests. Between 100 and 300 years ago, those forests had been cleared so that people could farm the land. Today that land is considered sub-marginal for farming. Why? Because fertilizers, pesticides and breeding have resulted in significantly higher crop yields per acre thus requiring less land to produce a greater amount of food. It simply isn't worht the effort to farm rocky land in New England. None of that, however, changes the fact that if you wish to purchase certain types of very high quality specialty produce, that produce is very often these days going to be marketed as "organic" and grown in accordance to the methods that will make it legal for it to be labeled as "organic" - and many farmers do it for the economic reasons I mentioned and not out of any idealogical motive. If conventionally grown produce of a similar variety and quality was available - then you might have a point about not purchasing the organic. But the simple fact is that, in many cases, a conventionally grown product of similar quality is NOT available. And I, for one, do not think it would accomplish anything for a person to sacrifice his passion for gourmet food on such a basis. It would accomplish jack squat in terms of any sort of economic impact on the organic industry - and, as most people here probably already know, the battle is primarily philosophical/ideological anyway. A similar issue is involved when it comes to "fair trade" coffee. That is nothing more than a movement of Commie-Lefty anti-capitalists. But go out and try to find really top quality coffee beans these days that are not labeled as "fair trade" coffee. It is becoming increasingly difficult And if you go to Starbucks - well, that is "fair trade" coffee too. As disgusting as that is, I don't think a person who values a quality cup of coffee in the morning would accomplish anything by sacrificing that pleasure and drinking cheap swill instead - other than, of course, giving up something that added to his enjoyment of life.
  3. But how on earth would you be able to tell if the produce at a supermarket or at a wholesaler is diseased or not? Bacteria is invisible and I can assure you that produce that has been sitting in a bin in a supermarket for any length of time is going to have been pawed by far more filthy and grubby hands than the produce you would find at markets such as you describe. Again, the key with any produce you buy from whatever source is to make sure to wash it before you eat it. Is it possible to get sick from contaminated produce in the USA? Sure - but the odds of it happening are extremely remote. Your odds of getting food poisoning or some other disease from eating in even a very excellent restaurant are far more likely than from eating produce at even a third rate produce vendor.
  4. I have no idea what you are talking about. Maybe defining "farmers market" would help. When I was a kid, there was a HUGE farmer's market in downtown Dallas and consisted of several sheds which one could walk through. It was owned by the city and farmer could rent stalls for something like $5 per day. One of the sheds was reserved for produce dealers who purchased their products from wholesalers and from farms in Mexico. The other sheds were reserved for farmers who grew their own food. The market was open 24 hours a day - the farmers used to sleep in the cabs of their trucks or bring along an RV. At about 3:00 in the morning, buyers for roadside produce stands and small grocery chains from up to several hundred miles away would come and buy produce in large quantities. Sometimes the farmers would stay only so long as it took to find a buyer who would buy all of their product at once and then go back to their farms. Others would stay all day and sell in smaller quantities hoping to get a better price per pound. My parents used to go there every two weeks and we would buy half bushels of tomatos, bell peppers, peaches, cucumbers, melons, black-eyd peas etc. Usually we ended up having to throw some of it out due our not being able to finish it all before it spoiled. But even with the spoilage, the produce cost only a fraction of what supermarkets charged and was MUCH better because it was actually picked ripe unlike the tasteless stuff at most supermarkets. Quite frankly, it spoiled me. The stuff at regular supermarkets does not satisfy me at all and the prices are usually astronomical. Alos, it wasn't just hippies that shopped there. There were lots of Mexicans, blacks, "rednecks," who, like my parents, were interested in getting quality produce at good prices as well as people from the more afflent parts of town wanting to get good quality before places such as Central Market and Whole Foods existed - and, yes, there were hippies too. There is absolutely NO significant risk from buying produce from a farm or a farmer here in the USA any more than there is from buying it at the grocery store. The primary risk that exists with both comes from what the product has come in contact with. If someone along the way handles the produce with dirty hands - well, that can be a problem. But that person could be the shopper at the grocery store who picks up the item to sniff it and inspect it while shopping. Chances are if you are buying from a farmer the produce has been handled less. There <i>are</i> occasional outbreaks of food posioning due to produce - it is not limited to organic produce. Recently there was one with bagged spinach. There was also one a few years ago with conventionally grown cantalopes imported from Chile. One should wash ANY produce before consuming it. If you go to third world countries, people are advised to avoid local produce or, at the very least, skin it before eathing it. But my understanding is this is due to organisms that may exist in the water that is used to irrigate it or might have been used to wash it. Such concerns really do not exist here in the USA. And while organic farmers do use manure as fertilizer, it is not the raw product but rather manure that has been composted, a process which involves lots of heat and kills off the organisms. If you go down to your local garden center, you can buy composted manure by the bag full - and it is perfectly safe to handle. I have been to other "farmer's markets" that only had a handful of vendors. Sometimes they have been a tad bit expensive but I have yet to find any that were more expensive than the national chain stores and in most cases, the quality is much better. Sadly, with regard to the farmer's market, the City of Dallas ruined a good thing. They decided to make it more "up-scale" and brought in specialty vendors that never took off. Then they "beautified" the area which resulted in reconstruction of the local streets and made it very difficult to get to. As a result, a good number of the customers and a lot of the farmers themselves were chased away. The market still exists - but it is only a shadow of its former self.
  5. I have an Objectivist friend who is a connoisseur and into cooking very high quality, gourmet food. He in now way buys into the environmental nonsense. He told me that if you want really high quality vegetables these days they will almost always be organic simply because of economics of specialty products in general. Conventional produce is more or less mass produced for a mass market. Extremely high quality produce needs more attention which means that it can only be produced on a smaller scale - which is also the case with organic produce. Furthermore, because organic produce costs more, in order to have a wider market appeal than just the hard-core hippie types, it needs to have some sort of appeal to justify the higher price. One of the things that can impact a product's taste and desirability is the specific variety of the crop that is planted. Just go to any garden center and look at the many varieties of tomatoes, for example, that are available. Different varieties have different pros and cons. Some are more drought resistant, others are more disease resistant while others simply taste better. Farmers pick the variety they plant based on a number of factors - and the ability of the plant to produce lots of product that will last long enough to get to market is very important and may win out over taste for farmers who sell their products through mass market channels. On the other hand, if you are a farmer and you are selling your product to a much smaller, more quality conscious market and you plan on giving your crop lots of extra attention anyway, then it might make more sense to plant a variety that tastes better despite the fact that it may not produce as high a yield and one has to be more alert for pests and such. So, for that reason, it is simply a matter of good business sense for farmers to market the same product to both the hippie crowd who buy into the anti-pesticide and anti-fertilizer nonsense and to the gourmet crowd who simply wants produce that tastes better. Personally, here in Texas, I buy my produce at a supermarket chain, Fiesta Mart, that primarily targets Mexicans - and we have LOTS of Mexicans here in Texas. Mexican housewives have never really taken to canned or frozen vegetables. They prefer to use fresh and they are VERY quality conscious in terms of taste but not too fussy about how pretty it looks. They are also very price conscious. So the chain I shop at features produce as a loss leader to draw Mexican shoppers in - much like other chains have specials on meat to draw people in. As a result, the produce is very inexpensive there. At the same time, however, it is much smaller. Peaches at the Fiesta Mart might be two inches in diameter rather than four inches in diameter at the national chains. But the price per pound is usually about 60 to 75 percent lower and tastes much better. The complaints of the Indian housewives that software nerd mentions are very much true - the overpriced produce at the national chains tastes like crap by comparison. It is produced to look pretty and is picked long before it has properly ripened so that it can make it to distant markets without spoilage. Near my house is a gourmet-only supermarket chain store called Central Market that features an unbelievable variety of produce - it is not uncommon for them to have a dozen varieties of radish and two dozen varieties of apples. But their produce is expensive and, shockingly enough, the quality is sometimes so-so. Whole Foods, on the other hand, has produce that both looks pretty AND is usually of excellent quality. It better be at the prices they charge.
  6. I hope he gets overthrown as well and they do to him what they did to Saddam Hussein. However, I don't think he is at all concerned about everything falling apart. The man has been to Cuba many times and is pals with Castro. He knows where all of this is leading to - and I think that is exactly what he wants. Cuba is so backwards and impoverished that people are meek and simply obey orders. And most of the people in Cuba with money and education - i.e. the people most impacted by the slide into total poverty and the people who would be most articulate and effective in speaking out against the regime - managed to get out in the early 1960s. What was left was mostly that country's poor which did not have much to start with. Don't be too surprised if there is a huge mass emigration of brains and educated people out of Venezuela once Chavez has finished looting all of their property. What good are such people to him once he has their wealth? Once he loots what they have and they are gone, then he will have a population of mostly illiterate peasants to lord over along with the oil money to finance his various schemes in other countries. My guess is that is what his game is.
  7. I don't think you could get large numbers of people to do so - not at least for a very long time. Of course, lots of people were willing to move into and brave the hardships and dangers of the wilderness of the American West in order to have their own land. But that won't be quite the same on Mars for a very long time to come. One will not be able to simply go out, stake a claim and start a town or a homestead. Any initial settlement there will likely be a milti-billion dollar venture and the colonists will be mere employees of that venture. A more appropriate comparison than the American colonists or pioneers in the Old West would be taking a job as an employee in some research laboratory in Antarctica or in some god-foresaken backward country that is so awful or primative that one must spend one's entire time in a secured base or compound. Of course, there are plenty of people who are willing to do that either because of their love for their work (as might be the case with research scientists) or because they are paid very high sums of money (as is the case with contractors in the Middle East and Iraq). Mars would have the disadvantage of being - what is it, nine months or so away? How many people are likely to be willing to spend a year and a half travel time plus whatever duration their tour of duty up there is away from their friends and family? Even if you enjoy your job - would you like to be surrounded by nobody else other than your colleagues at work for that extended period fo time? The reality is that, for a period of time, life on Mars would very much be like living on an isolated military base for several years with no vacations or trips back home. I am not even sure that this would appeal to very many sci-fi or space fans. The novelty of "gee, I am in outer space!!" and "gee, I am on Mars!! would quickly wear off. Most people would quickly grow homesick to be back in civilization. Keep in mind that in the early stages of even the first permanant settlement, living there would be like being stuck in a small town - a small town with no roads out. My guess is that, in its early stages, the main industry on Mars would be obtaining stuff that is scarce on earth such as minerals or the production of stuff that would be impossible or dangerous to do on earth. My guess is that much of that work would be done by robots - or perhaps even by prison labor. I don't mean to be a nay-sayer - but I think the reality of what day-to-day life will be like for pioneer settlers on a distant planet will be much more dull and tedious than the sort of romanticized vision that a lot of people might have.
  8. Well, 200 years ago was 1807 - they didn't even have tax write offs then. Indeed, less than a decade later, the USA was invaded in the 1812 war and it was an open question whether the country would survive. Less than 60 years later the country fell into civil war. Who knows what the situation will be like 200 years from now. Maybe we will live in a wonderful laissez faire world where the sort of taxation we have today will be regarded as barbaric? Or maybe one of the decedents of Hillary Clinton/Ted Kennedy etc. will nationalize everything causing economic catastrophe and plunge us into another Dark Ages. It is simply impossible in the context of our current life span for human beings and human institutions to plan for 200 years. But all of what you say here is still in the realm of science fiction. There is no way one can say, assuming such technology can be developed and implemented, that it will take 50 years or any other period of time. How can one when such technology does not even exist yet? No significant number of serious investors are going to put one cent - let alone billions of dollars - into something that is nothing more than science fiction. And even if it could be demonstrated that it could be done in 50 years - that is still a very long time for one to see a return on one's investment. Let's see - if you are 20 years old when the project starts, that would mean that you would be 70 when it is finished. How many 20 year olds have serious amounts of money to invest? For something like that to work, it would have to be done in such a way that it somehow generates profits in the meanwhile. My point is this: the human lifespan imposes a very hard limit on the range of the planning and the projects that human beings can engage in. If the lifespan were to significantly increase, then that range would increase accordingly. For example, let's say that a medical breakthrough came along which enabled us to live up to 10,000 years. Human life as we know it would be changed forever. Currently, people go to school from anywhere between 12 and 18 years. But if we lived to 10,000 years, why would we stop at a mere 18 years? We could instead spend a thousand years devoted to learning and it would still be a smaller percentage of a person's lifespan than education typically is today. Imagine how knowledgeable - and productive - people could be after a thousand years of schooling. And great minds would stick around and continue to be productive. Imagine Ayn Rand, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, Aristotle, etc., etc. all still being alive and in the prime of their life. A penny invested in the year 1 AD generating only a 1% annual return would be worth millions of dollars today - a span of time which would be equal to a person with a lifespan of 10,000 years what 16 years is to someone with a lifespan of 80 years. So if the human lifespan could be increased by that much - well, then a project that would take two thousand years to see a profit would suddenly be quite doable. For that reason, by the way, I regard people like Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy who seek to destroy the pharmaceutical industry and socialize medicine to be potentially lethal enemies. By doing so, they are jacking with the possibility of my being able to be around for the medical breakthrough that will enable me to have a much longer lifespan. I rather doubt that Clinton or Kennedy have very happy lives so it may not be a big deal for them - but that is a rather huge deal for me and I am sure for most people here as well.
  9. Rumor has it that both Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton stand while they pee. And when Nancy Pelosi pees, her eyebrows are still raised up in a look of perpetual surprise. (Her botched plastic surgery makes me think of the comprachicos)
  10. The new rage among the politically correct in Europe. Can we here in Nancy Pelosi's America be far behind? I'll bet that Teresa Heinz already makes her pathetic hubby John Kerry do this. http://www.townhall.com/columnists/JohnLeo...ught_to_justice - - - - - Young women in Sweden, Germany and Australia have a new cause: They want men to sit down while urinating. This demand comes partly from concerns about hygiene -- avoiding the splash factor -- but, as Jasper Gerard reports in the English magazine The Spectator, "more crucially because a man standing up to urinate is deemed to be triumphing in his masculinity, and by extension, degrading women." One argument is that if women can't do it, then men shouldn't either. Another is that standing upright while relieving oneself is "a nasty macho gesture," suggestive of male violence. A feminist group at Stockholm University is campaigning to ban all urinals from campus, and one Swedish elementary school has already removed them. In Australia, an Internet survey shows that 17 percent of those polled think men ought to sit, while 70 percent believe they should be allowed to stand. Some Swedish women are pressuring their men to take a stand, so to speak. Yola, a 25-year-old Swedish trainee psychiatrist, says she dumps boyfriends who insist on standing. "What else can I do?," said her new boyfriend, Ingvar, who sits.
  11. Actually, I rarely expect anything more than just that from today's newspapers - and the more allegedly "prestigous" the paper, the more likely for it to be thusly saturated. I take pretty much everything I read in the major newspapers and in the wire services with a grain of salt and if there is a story or issue I am particularly interested in, I make sure I look for articles on it in the so-called "alternative media" as a fact and context check. Very often the mainstream media's reporting on any given story is highly selective.
  12. According to one of the articles on the company's website, a large pizza with everything on it only costs $7.99. That's pretty cheap. I hope it tastes better than CiCi's Pizza. CiCi's is a chain of very low priced pizza buffet - all you can eat for less than $5. Unfortunately, no matter what kind of pizza you get from their buffet, it all tastes the same. That has kind of made me a bit biased against cheap pizza. There is another chain here in Texas called Double Daves which sometimes has very decent pizza buffets - but some locations seem to offer buffets and others do not and those that do are not consistent about the time of day it is available. I think the very best pizza is the kind you get by the slice in hole-in-the-wall dives in New York City. That stuff is so good - anytime I am in New York I pig out on that and White Castle hamburgers which does not have locations here in Texas. I have tried several places in various parts of the Fort Worth/Dallas area which sell pizza by the slice and which claim to offer "New York style" pizza - but I have yet to find a single place that has pizza at all like the stuff in NYC. I can't say I have high hopes of finding such pizza at Pizza Patron - but for $8, I will give them a shot. What I ought to do for kicks is take some of the Euros I have in and watch the look on their face when I present them. Somewhere around here I have an envelope with approximately 60 Euros in cash left over from when I purchased some records from Germany a few years ago. The owner refused to sell them to me unless I sent him the money in cash in Euros. It was a real pain - I had to order the Euros from my bank and the minimum amount I could order was 100 Euros. So I ended up sending the Euro cash in the mail (not the smartest thing, probably) and by the time I finally received the records, it was such a long time later that I had already give up hope of ever seeing them figuring that the money either got stolen in transit or the seller was a crook and did not send them knowing there was very little I could do about it. I really ought to either find some more records in Germany to buy or else take the notes back to my bank and deposit them back in my account. In the meanwhile, however, I could always take them to Pizza Patron and amuse myself by watching the staff try to patiently explain to what they will suppose is a crazy gringo the difference between a Euro and a Peso! For $8 I would not only get a pizza, I would get an amusing side show as well!
  13. The Pizza chain in question is called Pizza Patron and they market themselves almost exclusively to the very large Hispanic market here in Texas and locate their stores in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. Here is their website: http://www.pizzapatron.com/ My guess is that they will take in very few Pesos when all is said and done and that the small number of people who actually do pay in Pesos could just as easily have paid in U.S. Dollars had that not been their policy. But the policy has been given extensive coverage in the local news media here in Texas and, now, apparently across the nation. In other words, that simple change in policy which will, in and of itself, have little impact on traffic in its stores has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of free publicity which will be positively received by the very people who are in their target market. Furthermore, Hispanics in states that do not yet have a Pizza Patron will now have heard of it and probably be curious about it. And guess what? A major section of their website plugs franchise opportunities. Someone associate with that company is absolutely brilliant, I think. Pizza Patrons are all over the place here in the Fort Worth/Dallas area. I have yet to eat at one - but it is on my list of places to eventually try out.
  14. Another Fischerkoesen cartoon has been posted. This one is a cigarette commercial from 1935. There is one scene in it where the main character - an animated cigarette - confronts three dancing pieces of paper, the third of which shows what looks to me like a Nazi eagle. The first paper translates to "great changes." The second paper translates to "payment instructions." The on the road pointing to them translates, as best I can figure out, to "streak of bad luck." So my guess is the dancing papers are supposed to represent tax collectors. I would be curious if anyone else might know for sure otherwise. The animatiion on this is not quite as lush as some of the other Fischerkiesen but the overall cartoon is still very charming. I sure wish someone would publish or post all of his works.
  15. I am very pleased to announce the 2nd annual Radio Dismuke New Year's Eve Broadcast in which I will help ring in the New Year in all four continental United States time zones by spinning a variety of 78 rpm recordings from the 1920s through the early 1940s in a special live broadcast. Joining me in the Radio Dismuke studio in Fort Worth, Texas will be Eddie The Collector and Matt From College Station who will be bringing along lots of fun and interesting selections from their large collections of vintage 78 rpm records. The New Year's Eve live broadcast will run from: For United States listeners: Sunday December 31, 2006 10:00 PM - 3:00 AM Eastern 9:00 PM - 2:00 AM Central 8:00 PM - 1:00 AM Mountain 7:00 PM - 12:00 AM Pacific For International listeners: 3:00 AM - 8:00 AM Monday GMT Already have plans for New Year's Eve? Not to worry - the entire program will be rebroadcast on New Year's day. It will be a great way to recuperate from the sort of music that one is often subjected to these days at New Year's parties! The New Years day rebroadcast will run from: United States listeners: Monday January 1, 2007 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM Eastern 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM Central 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM Mountain 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM Pacific International listeners: 6:00 PM - 11:00 PM GMT A link to a Technical Issues Blog will be available on the Radio Dismuke website at www.RadioDismuke.com and will be updated in the event that there are any technical issues which impact the live broadcast.
  16. The answer is: selectivity of focus. Just because something such as a work of art or a building may not be worthy of praise as a whole, that doesn't mean that there can't be certain aspects of it that are well done and/or enjoyable. For example, there are certain very early movie musicals from around 1929 that I really enjoy - but by any valid philosophical measure the movies are, at best, mediocre. Oftentimes the so-called "plot" is utterly banal and the acting......well, one begins to seriously think of the term "casting couch." Nevertheless, I still love the movies because I LOVE the incredibly upbeat, happy and highly entertaining music of that era and such movies sometimes featured a lot of it. They also featured dance numbers which, by the early 1930s were breathtaking both in terms of the choreography and the cinematography. Some of dance scenes in the old Busby Berkely musicals are like watching a kaleidoscope set to music - with the beautiful designs being made up of chorus girls. Plus, in some of those movies, one can get a glimpse of the wonderful spirit of that area which was so refreshingly absent of the cynicism and nihilism of today's pop culture and, for a brief moment, experience a world where people in their 20s looked like and acted like grown ups as opposed to today's world where lots of people in their 50s go around acting like and trying to look like overgrown teenagers. All of those things make such movies a great value to me - and I don't even worry about the bad acting or the dumb plots because I can always fast-forward over the scenes that I don't like. My reasons for enjoying those particular aspects of such films are certainly valid and rational. But if I were to proclaim the films to be somehow "great movies" on that basis - well, that wouldn't be valid and would be a form of subjectivism. There are certain standards and criteria by which one must properly judge the objective merit of a movie - and the positive aspects that I mentioned constitute only a limited part of such criteria (cinematography) or are criteria that is utterly non-essential (the fact that people in the 1920s dressed well and acted like adults). So the only thing I can properly conclude about such a movie is: the movie is mediocre - but I LOVE it because everything about it is so 1920s. Now, imagine for a moment if I suffered from the fallacy of rationalism and responded to such movies accordingly. As I watch the move, I REALLY enjoy the song and dance numbers but I find the acting and "plot" to be pathetic. Afterwards, I go through the checklist of objective criteria for judging movies and am forced to conclude that that movie is mediocre. Being a hard-core rationalist, I conclude that, if I take my explicit aesthetic and philosophical views seriously, my emotional response to such movies, must therefore, be consistent with my objective evaluation of it. Otherwise, there would be a dichotomy between my views and my values, that something would be wrong with me and that I obviously would have premises somewhere that need to be changed. So when I think back about the particular scenes and aspects of the movie that I enjoyed, I would be inclined to dismiss the significance of those scenes to me personally and to repress my enjoyment of them. And, if I still found myself wanting to watch those movies over and over again, I would find myself feeling guilty especially knowing that there are other movies out there that, by any objective measure, I would have to classify as being "great" that I don't get such emotional satisfaction from. Think of all that I would have lost had I taken such an approach to those old movies - I would not only have missed out on the full enjoyment I get from watching them, I would have repressed and dismissed as "irrational" emotional responses which are perfectly valid and are rational. And if I did so in the name of some alleged fidelity towards "Objectivism" - well, I would not only have grossly misunderstood and misapplied the philosophy, I would have done so in such a way as to seemingly turn Objectivism against my values - values which mean a lot to me and which are perfectly valid within the context in which they are held. Unfortunately, I have seen people who are new to the philosophy do just that - which is one of the reasons that this is such an important topic. In most cases, they fortunately grow out of it. But if they don't, in the long run the end up either being transformed into walking "randroids" or, more often, their inner worm finally rebels and they turn against Objectivism and frequently go around loudly denouncing the philosophy as some sort of dogmatic cult. Of course, Objectivism wasn't dogmatic - as rationalists, they were. And Objectivism isn't a cult - but as rationalists, they were looking for it to be one and, when things did not work out like they had hoped for, they turned against it blaming Objectivism and not themselves. If you really enjoy something and you cannot see how it will cause you any sort of harm and it does not violate anyone's rights - well, the proper approach should be innocent until proven guilty and someone had better give you a damn good reason and back it up with LOTS of very concrete evidence before you will even consider giving it up.
  17. Another factor with regard to sales per square foot also occurred to me. Apple Stores cater to a much more specialized crowd and are, therefore, able to draw from a much wider market area. For example, in the entire Fort Worth/Dallas metro area, there are only 4 Apple Store locations - all of them located in very well-to-do sections of town. By contrast, there are 23 Best Buy locations. In the entire state of Texas there are only 10 Apple stores and, like the ones in Fort Worth/Dallas, they are all in well-to-do neighborhoods and are in major metro areas. Best Buy has stores in even the smaller cities such as Waco, Sherman, Wichita Falls, Killeen, Tyler, Longview etc. High-end stores of any variety rarely locate in such small cities simply because there is not a large enough population base to support them. So people in those cities with the interest and means to shop in high-end and highly specialized stores generally make periodic trips to the major metro areas to buy the sorts of items that the local stores do not sell - and I have no doubt that there are people from those cities who end up shopping at the Apple Stores when they make such trips to Fort Worth/Dallas. On the other hand, few people will drive to the other side of town, let alone a hundred miles, to shop at a mass market electronics store such as Best Buy - there are simply too many other places where they can get more or less the same experience closer to home. On the link that I put up, Costco had the highest sales per square foot on the list. I have read quite a lot about their stores having a higher sales volume than rival Sams Club, owned by Wal-mart. But, here too, a similar principle operates. Costco carries somewhat more upscale merchandise than does Sams and people are willing to drive further for it as a result. Plus, there are some people whose pseudo self-esteem would be all shot to hell if they were seen shopping with all of the proles at Wal-mart or Sams - but, for whatever, reason, going to Target or Costco is, among that crowd of people, a more socially acceptable way of "slumming" (I have come across people on a different, non-Objectivist forum who actually have that sort of mindset) and will think nothing of driving past 2 Sams Club locations to buy the same case of Diet Coke at Costco that they could have picked up closer to home far easier and perhaps even for a little less. Bottom line, sales per square foot between different companies selling different goods and services and catering to different markets are not an accurate apples to apples comparison by which one can judge either the success of the companies or the quality and rationality of management.
  18. Where are you getting that Apple stores are the most logically and rationally designed? I am not disputing it - I have never been in an Apple store and it is very rare for me to go to Neiman's and I think I have only been in Tiffany once. I am just curious as to the basis for your claim? As to sales per squre foot, while it is, no doubt a very important number, I don't think this sort of comparison between stores which cater to very different markets necessarily means a whole lot and certainly is not a fair basis on which to judge the rationality of their management or the architects/designers they hire. For example, the article you linked to states the following: "Apple stores, on average under 6,000 square feet, each bring in more than $23 million in annual sales, according to the Bernstein report. That compares with annual sales per store of $38 million at Best Buy, which has stores about seven times larger." What is key here is that Best Buy's stores are seven times larger - and they carry a MUCH wider range of products than does Apple's. Many of the products that Best Buy carries are inexpensive and probably have relatively low markups. Some of the boxes for the Mr. Coffee coffee makers you can buy at Best Buy probably take up nearly as much space as does the box which contains a brand new Mac desktop and certainly more than a laptop. But the sales price and, most likely the profit, on the desktop and laptop I assure you is significantly higher than that of a coffee maker. And the same amount of shelf and storage space that Best Buy has to devote to its inexpensive $5 CD storage crates is enough to store and display several ipods which of which sells for signifincantly more than $5 each. Best Buy also devotes a significant amount of its store to CDs which it sells as a loss leader to encourage people to come into the store with the expectation that some of them will browse and make impulse buys on their more profitable merchandise. To take another example, Wal-mart's Supercenter stores can be as large as 260,000 square feet. Wal-mart sells those "cup of soup" raman noodles for about 25 cents each and each cup takes up approximately about the same amount of space that an ipod does. Wal-mart would have to sell A LOT of raman noodles for the particular square feet of shelf space it devotes to them to even approach the sort of numbers that are quoted in that article. According to a site I found via a quick google search, Wal-mart makes about $375 per square foot - much less than any of the stores mentioned in that article. Yet Wal-mart is the most successful retailer in the world and its management is certainly far from being irrational. Here is where I got that number from, and other chains are mentioned there as well: http://www.bizstats.com/realworld.htm Observe that Barnes& Noble has the lowest sales per square foot of any of those listed. I doubt this that this is because their stores are badly designed but rather it is the nature of their business model. Barnes & Noble devotes a great deal of their store space to providing comfortable seating and gathering areas and actively encourages people to use them to browse through books and magazines they have no intention of buying and even to do things such as play cards and chess. There used to be a local book chain here in Fort Worth/Dallas called Taylors which resisted offering such unprofitable amenities in its stores - all of its store space was strictly devoted to merchandise only. I have no doubt that their sales per square foot when they had the market to themselves was much higher than Barnes & Noble or Borders. Yet as soon as Barnes & Noble and Borders came to town, Taylors went out of business (and made a big public whine fest about how "unfair" it was and threatened anti-trust lawsuites as well).
  19. Here are the most pathetic and yet the funniest communist jokes I have come across: John Kerry Ted Kennedy Hillary Clinton Nancy Pelosi Cindy Sheehan And it is a race to see which one is the most pathetic and funny! I know....... You don't have to say it........ I will go away and be quiet. <duck>
  20. It might be possible with existing technology - but it wouldn't be worth anyone's while to do it. What sort of person or entity is going to make a sizeable investment which will not show any return for 200 years no matter how huge the payoff is? Who's going to be around to benefit from it? Some corporate entities might be around (and even that is a pretty big maybe - consider the number of corporate GIANTS from as recently as 30 years ago which no longer exist other than as trademarks owned by companies who picked at their corporate corpses - RCA and AT&T come to mind), but even if they are, it would not be at all an appropriate use of the capital of shareholders who will not be around then. The fact that it is possible with existing technology does, however, suggest that, with technological progress, that time frame might be reduced to the point that such an investment would be worthwhile.
  21. Gee - thanks! No, his secondhandedness would not be a value to Wal-mart and would actually be a disvalue. I was merely saying that there might be a reason for a business such as Wal-mart to decide to construct buildings with traditional and conventional looking facades rather than ones with unconventional and highly original facades. If so, it would be entirely justified in putting up buildings with aesthetic features which Roark would refuse to build and would regard as an aesthetic abomination. Wal-mart's primary focus is and should be on one thing only: selling as much general merchandise items as possible and as profitably as possible. Everything the company does ought to be integrated and subordinated to that one purpose - and from what I have observed of Wal-mart, they do a great job of doing just that. A company such as Wal-mart would properly regard its store buildings as nothing more than a tool and a means towards that end. If Wal-mart had reason to believe that stores that had design elements reminiscent of Roman temples or medieval castles would make them more appealing to customers and bring in additional customers - well, why not build stores that look like that? So what if it isn't great architecture? They are in business to sell merchandise. Elevating the public's aesthetic taste, while certainly desirable, is not Wal-mart's job. Now, as to the issue of secondhandedness, no, it would NOT be of value to Wal-mart. Even if Wal-mart demanded that the facades on its stores imitate some or a variety of historical styles, there is still a great deal of room for innovation for any architect who decided to take the job - and, for that reason, Wal-mart would not be well served by a second-hander. For example, one of the primary concerns for a company like Wal-mart is cost. An architect who was able to come up with an innovative way that would shave 20% off the cost of conventional design methods would be a highly desirable thing. One of the things companies such as Wal-mart are always looking for is ways to make it possible and cost effective for big box retail stores to locate in dense urban areas where real estate prices are high and lots sizes are small and hard to come by. An architect who could find a way to fit an entire Wal-mart Supercenter on a small lot in Brooklyn or Queens by having the store be multi-storied with a self-contained parking garage that would be both friendly to shoppers wheeling around large shopping carts and which could be built at a cost low enough to make such a store viable and profitable for Wal-mart - well, such an architect would be worth his weight in gold and so would such a building even if its exterior did look like a circus tent or a Turkish market. And even with regard to an exterior design which imitates earlier styles there is room for innovation. One can incorporate historical styles in an attractive way or one can do so in such a way that it looks like utter crap. For example, very near where I live is an upscale shopping center that was built a few years ago and was touted by its developer as having an "Old World" look. That's fine - and if it actually looked like something from the Old World at least it could be pretty on its own terms. Instead, the thing looks horrible. The entire shopping center is made out of standard cheap tilt wall pre-fabricated concrete panels and to give it the "Old World" look, they cut out arched openings in the concrete and decorated the edges of windows and doorways with expensive materials, nice tiles, granite columns etc. - and the result is an incongruous mess. The fact that the walls of the buildings are nothing more than cheap concrete pre-fab panels is very obvious no matter how much money they spent on granite columns and such. For example, here is an image that I found on the web: http://www.grahammarcus.com/images/content...apel_hill_1.JPG The top of the tower was well done in that it looks authentic and is attractive in an "Old World" sense. But, in real life with a broader perspective than the picture is able to offer, the walls to its right and left look totally fake - which they are. Somebody on a local architectural forum referred to the place as being an example of "lick and stick" architecture - and I think that is the perfect term for the place. Ironically, the shopping center is named after a chapel that overlooks it and which was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's students. I am not much of a fan of most post Depression era modernist buildings but I think this particular chapel is very nice. Here is an image that really doesn't do it much justice: http://www.fortwortharchitecture.com/west/leonardchapel.jpg Personally, had I built the shopping center, I would have instructed the architect to come up with something that would compliment and play off the chapel which totally dominates its surroundings. But even granted the owner's wish for an "Old World" look to the shopping center, someone could have pulled it off much more successfully even if the budget only allowed for tilt wall pre-fab. Sure, one can say that imitating Old World buildings is second-handed - but doing so in a way that fits the building's purpose, is economical and takes advantages of modern construction methods such as concrete pre-fab and is attractive does require a large degree of first-handed ingenuity, innovation and, above all good taste which the designer of that shopping center was clearly in need of. So, for that reason, I completely agree with you when you say: "first-handed thinking will always be better, even if the market for your product is the lowest common denominator." That is so true - and it is true even if certain aspects of one's project include elements which are necessarily and unapologetically imitative.
  22. I have heard that one before - but I think it is a very good one. Here's an old Russian joke - I think it pre-dates the Russian Revolution but it is very appropriate and gives a good insight as to why things in that country have been and continue to be the way they are: A Russian peasant was working in his field and discovered a very old bottle. He opened the bottle up and out came a genie. The genie thanked him for letting him out and told the peasant that he would be granted one wish. He could wish for anything in the world he wanted and he would get it. There was, however, one catch: whatever he wished for, his neighbor would receive the same thing but double. Thus if the peasant wished for one million rubles, his neighbor wold receive two million rubles. The peasant thought about it for a moment and replied: "I wish it would rain pig manure all over my property."
  23. Sorry - I only just now noticed your reply to my posting. I think this is a great example of why context is so important when it comes to understanding and applying principles. First - there is nothing intrinsically irrational about bad architecture. It simply does not follow that a person who fails to appreciate certain aesthetic principles - even if they can be demonstrated to be objectively rational and valid - is, therefore irrational. Rationality may have nothing at all to do with the issue. Perhaps the person is merely wrong. Being wrong is not the same thing as being irrational. Being wrong can be the result of being irrational - but it can also be because the person is simply ignorant or has errors in this thinking. Things like this are especially tricky when one gets into to the realm of aesthetics where there does exist a great deal of room for optional values and personal taste and private preferences. As Ayn Rand pointed out, it is entirely possible for a person to say: That is a great work of art but I don't much care for it. Likewise, I would argue it is entirely possible for a rational person to be able to say: That is NOT a great work of art - but I actually like it. A good example is when Dr. Peikoff mentioned (I believe in his Understanding Objectivism lecture) how he, for a long time, really enjoyed certain types of horror movies despite the fact that such films are based on premises entirely at odds with many aspects of Objectivism. (If I recall correctly -it has been a few years so I may be wrong as to his specific reason - he enjoyed such films because he found the characters in such films to be interesting when compared to those in more conventional movies. ) Furthermore, "irrational" is a very strong word. Ayn Rand's point regarding Peter Keating was not so much that he was irrational (there were minor characters in The Fountainhead who were much more irrational than Keating - for example Lois Cook and Gus Webb) but that he was a second-hander. And he wasn't presented as a second-hander merely because he put up certain types of buildings. His approach to every significant aspect of his life was second-handed - from the person and reason he chose to marry, to the sort of books that he read, to where he wanted his house to be located, etc. It is certainly true that such an approach to life is anything but rational. But there are degrees of irrationality and I would argue that one should be careful before labeling all non-rational behavior as "irrational." Usually when people refer to someone or something as "irrational" they are talking about extreme instances of irrationality. For that reason, if one wishes to be properly understood, it is generally better to use a more narrow term to refer to the specific instance of irrational behavior that you have in mind - for example, evasive, dishonest, emotionalistic, mystical, nihilistic, second-handed, etc. With this in mind, going back to your question: Is it rational to sometimes behave irrationally? Well, of course not. But not all behaviors we would properly consider to be undesirable or even irrational are the result of irrationality. Context is essential in making such a determination. I think your question would be better rephrased as: "Is it sometimes rational to behave second-handedly?" because that is more essentially the issue involved when it comes to building Keating style buildings or attempting to adjust to mass market tastes. Here, too, context is essential. In a division of labor economy, one must ask: from whose perspective is one asking the question - and what is the central purpose of the person we are talking about? If you are a top Wal-mart executive your purpose is to make as large a return on the shareholders investment as possible by selling as much general merchandise items as possible as a result of using innovative distribution efficiencies and effectively flexing one's huge buying power to offer lower prices than one's major competitors. That is a highly rational and extremely productive goal. There is nothing second-handed about it - and even people who dislike shopping at Wal-mart's stores should be thankful to them because their relentless pursuit of efficiency has actually been a major force in the economic growth of recent years. Achieving such a purpose basically involves, among many other things, selling books, CDs and movies one knows are utter crap. If you look at Wal-mart's store buildings, most of them are butt ugly. One may properly take exception to the CDs, books, movies and the aesthetics of their stores - but it is not a reflection of the integrity of Wal-mart's executives. It is not their job to tell people what they should be reading or what sort of architecture they should admire. If you are an architect - the question is why are you an architect? What do you wish to accomplish by being in the profession? Let's say that there is someone who, ever since childhood, had a fascination with and an admiration for a particular historical style of architecture. There is nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of things worthy of admiration in historical architecture and much of it is very beautiful. Whether or not imitating historical styles in a modern context constitutes good architecture is an entirely different issue. Let's say this person loves classical buildings with such a passion that he decided to study architecture and become an architect just so he could build classical buildings. He opens a practice and builds up a business catering to moderns who wish to build new buildings in a classical style. One day, a client walks in and asks that he design a glass box type of building. He refuses the job on grounds that he dislikes glass boxes and has no interest in building them. Is it fair to compare such an architect to Peter Keating? No, it is not. Does he lack integrity? No - and refusing to take commissions for buildings in styles he dislikes is a sign that he does have integrity. Are the buildings he designs second-handed in terms of aesthetics and style? Yes, they most certainly are - and such an architect would undoubtedly be the very first to tell you that such is the case. Does it follow, therefore, that the architect as a person is a second-hander? No, it does not. If his love and passion for classical architecture is genuine, then he is being true to his aesthetic values and is NOT a second-hander in that regard. Ayn Rand might take strong exception to his buildings and to his aesthetic vision. She might consider him to be a second-rate architect. But that is an entirely different issue than whether or not he is a second-hander and certainly a different issue as to whether or not he is irrational. Now, let's take the example of an architect who will pretty much attempt to give his clients anything they want. If the client wants a classical house - no problem. If he wants a modernist office park - no problem. Is this architect necessarily a second hander? Again, it really comes down to context. Why did he become an architect and what value does he seek from being in the profession? Perhaps the stylistic aspects of the profession are secondary to him. Perhaps what he enjoys is the structural aspects. Perhaps what he enjoys is the challenge of accomplishing whatever goals his clients give him and being able to do so within the confines of a specific budget. If that is the value he seeks from his profession and the aesthetic aspects are secondary to him, it might be entirely appropriate for him to give people the sorts of facades they want in exchange for him being able to do the aspects of the job that he loves to do. He might not even care that someone like Ayn Rand might come along and comment that his buildings are third-rate. In fact, he might even agree with such an assessment and say that he has no desire to build only buildings which are first-rate aesthetically and that his primary objective is to create efficient floor plans or to find ways to maximize his clients' construction budget or even to simply get as much business as possible because he loves to remain busy. Such a person might even go so far as to say that he doesn't have the talent to be a Roark or a Wright or a Sullivan but that he gets a great deal of satisfaction out of being able to do a good job on the sort of projects that are within his sphere of competence. Nobody is ever likely to regard his buildings as examples of first hand aesthetic vision. But it does not follow that he is a second-hander and it certainly does not follow that he is irrational. The message of The Fountainhead was NOT that every person should aspire to be the next Howard Roark of his profession or that all architects should build the sort of buildings that Ayn Rand would have approved of. The message is that people should live selfishly and remain true to their own values, visions and passions. Whether or not those particular values, visions and passions are rational and objectively valid is an important issue - but it is an entirely separate issue. I have occasionally run across people new to Objectivism who felt a need to go through he motions of expressing an admiration for certain styles of architecture, certain styles of paintings, literature, movies, "tiddlywink" music, etc., because they think it is necessary to do so if they wish to "good Objectivists" - and, at the same time, they repress the passion for other styles of such things that they once felt before they discovered Objectivism. Doing this is very dangerous - and, ironically, it is a form of second-handedness in its own right. If you genuinely value something - never repress it simply because it seems to be contrary to Objectivism. There is a reason you value it - and if you give it up before you fully understand that reason, you are actually making the same mistake that a second-hander does. There are entirely legitimate reasons for valuing certain things which have nothing to do with their objective philosophical value. It is entirely possible to say: "this is a really third-rate building/novel/painting/movie - but I love it."
  24. Here is what I have always been curious about when I have heard of such meteorites: 1 - On what basis do they have to believe such a meteorite came from Mars specifically as opposed to anyplace else? 2) - Assuming it did, in fact come from Mars, how on Earth........ errrrr.....I mean how on Mars......did it get away from Mars. Presumably escaping the gravitational field of a planet is a pretty difficult task. Do other planets end up getting meteorites from Earth - actual natural chunks of Earth as opposed to our assortment of man-made space debris some of which might perhaps eventually find its way to other planets? I can't imagine a volcanic eruption being powerful enough to toss large chunks so high that they end up going into outer space.
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