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Everything posted by stellavision

  1. Because they are books about heroes. Richard and his friends act morally, fighting to protect their freedom -- and the story illustrates the nature of altruism as a threat to freedom. While the books are sometimes heavy-handed in their illustration of Objectivist ideals, it does not detract from the wonder of the story. One problem with the series, if one is not a fantasy reader, is how long the books take to get to their high point. I very much enjoyed Wizard's First Rule, but the first three or four books in the series are less Objectivist in nature and more just classic fantasy (though very good classic fantasy, with strong characters). I sometimes wonder whether Goodkind discovered Objectivism a third of the way through writing the series. I think it might be frustrating to those who otherwise wouldn't read fantasy (I used to read it a lot, but then quit a few years ago, and SoT is the only series I've made an exception for since). I think the pinnacle of the series is Faith of the Fallen, which has a nice treatment of Objectivist aesthetics wrapped into a riveting story line. It might be confusing to read that one without reading the previous books in the series. If you find yourself disliking the books, perhaps try reading summaries of the first several, and then read FotF -- I think that one is worth reading by anyone, fantasy lover or not.
  2. I read The Myth of the Robber Barons, and liked it very much. It's more of a series of case studies than a biography, so it presents several instances of heroic businessmen (one of whom is Vanderbilt) and their success rather than going in-depth into one man's life. The author definitely views businessmen as good, and makes a clear distinction between political entrepreneurs and real businessmen. Definitely a recommended read. Commodore focuses on one person, so it goes more into detail about Vanderbilt's achievements and personal habits through the course of his life. Unfortunately, the author is very much of the "with great wealth comes great responsibility to be an altruist" camp, so the book suffers from his editorial comments. However, the facts of Vanderbilt's life are so inspiring and interesting that when the author is just reporting, rather than commenting, it's a great read. As I previously mentioned, W.A. Croffut's Vanderbilts and the History of Their Fortune is a healthy contrast in attitude, if not as deeply immersed in facts and details. So I'd recommend that one too, for the sheer enjoyment of reading an author who clearly has a deep reverence for achievement in business.
  3. Yes, and I enjoyed it very much. I gave it to my niece, who wants to become a doctor, to introduce her to moral selfishness in the realm of medicine. Ooh, those do sound good. Thank you!
  4. The other two replies have already said what I wanted to say about what you should do now, but I just wanted to comment on this piece. For future reference -- nobody treats you badly all of the time. If someone did, it would be the easiest thing in the world to never have anything to do with her. Manipulative people get you to stick around by treating you wonderfully some of the time, maybe even most of the time, and really badly at other times. Raise your standards -- it's possible to find someone who will treat you well all of the time, perhaps with the occasional slip-up, but close enough to "all of the time" that that's how you think of it.
  5. Right...my tastes in nonfiction are pretty eclectic, but since I'm in the healthcare field, I enjoy reading about medicine most. I've read all of these, and loved them. I'd say The Scarlet Pimpernel and books 1 and 2 of Sparrowhawk are my favorite of that list. I'm not that interested in getting back into SF/fantasy on a regular basis (what I loved about SoT was the heroics, not the magic), but I just might try some of the ones recommended here!
  6. I read the first few books of The Sword of Truth several years ago, when I read a lot more fantasy than I do now. At the time I thought they were pretty good but not good enough to suck me into another series that had no clear prospect of being over (I learned my lesson with The Wheel of Time!). I also wasn't an Objectivist at the time. Thanks in part to how much the series has been discussed here, I ended up reading the books again, and this time I got all the way to the end. Really enjoyable, especially in the middle and end of the series when Goodkind becomes more explicit about principles in the books. Unfortunately, now that I've read an eleven-book series from start to finish with no interruptions, I have no idea what to read next! I feel like I'm too emotionally exhausted from being sucked into the story for a solid month to read another fiction book. I tried starting a nonfiction book, but it seems cold and hollow after finishing Richard's story. So, any suggestions for what to follow a grand series like this with?
  7. If by "fashion" one means "the latest trends," then yes, it can be second-handed -- if one wears an unflattering style just because it's "hot" right now, that is second-handed. But if I buy a trendy new dress because it happens to flatter my body, that is not second-handedness at all. And when I said "if it's not your size, don't buy it" -- yes, that applies to both men and women. "Fitting well" does not necessarily mean "fitting tightly" -- it simply means that the cut of clothing flatters your body rather than hiding it or pushing it into an unattractive shape. A man whose clothes skim his figure and hint at the strong, masculine body underneath is much more attractive than a man wearing baggy, ill-fitting clothes that hide him in a heap of fabric. The latter just looks sloppy.
  8. Here's an objective (though not specifically Objectivist) rule that I wish more people would follow: 1. Just because it comes in your size, it doesn't mean you should wear it. 1a. (Corollary) And if it doesn't come in your size, you DEFINITELY shouldn't wear it!
  9. I'm the co-author of today's New York Times crossword puzzle. Today is Monday, therefore the puzzle is easy, so even if you're not a crossword buff, this one should be approachable. Enjoy! If you can't get a copy of the NYT, many papers run the NYT crossword on syndication, six weeks after the puzzle originally ran in the NYT.
  10. Yup. Envy or jealousy that comes from a place of "I wish I had what s/he has" can actually be a good thing -- a motivator. Say you and a coworker are up for a promotion, and your coworker gets it. You are jealous and wish you had been the one who had been chosen, but then upon giving the situation more thought, you realize that your coworker has done great work on several projects recently and that your work hasn't been quite as good. So, because you want to advance just as your coworker did, you start working harder and eventually are given a promotion as well. As mentioned above, the desire to see someone fail is evil -- and so is envy that takes the form of "I want that AND I don't want him/her to have it" (unless the envied person does not deserve what s/he has gotten. To use the promotion example again, if you realize that your coworker has been doing better work and you react by badmouthing her to your colleagues in the hopes that she'll be fired and you'll be promoted in her place, that's evil. When envy drives you to a rational action (working harder to get for yourself what the person you envy has), that is good; when envy drives you to an irrational action (trying to bring someone down unjustly), that is evil.
  11. I'm not a parent, but I do have a teenage niece who will be starting high school in the fall. She is very pretty and very gregarious, and she has swarms of other kids (boys and girls) around her all the time. Previously she wasn't interested in boys, but she's starting to change in that respect. The rest of my family is devoutly Christian (although her parents less so than my parents). I'm not sure if my brother and his wife have talked to her about sex yet, but I'm guessing any such talk would be in the context of abstinence until marriage. I worry about her. I wouldn't freak out if she had sex as a teenager, as long as a) she uses contraception and she's doing it because she wants to, and not because some boy talked her into it. She's a well-behaved kid, but she does sometimes let peer pressure get to her. Unlike me at that age (I was socially awkward and not at all attractive), she's pretty and popular. I keep having nightmares that next year, she'll be a freshman in high school, some senior will ask her to the senior prom, and she'll be so flattered that she'll let him talk her into having sex after the prom even though she doesn't feel ready to do it. I know she's growing up and ultimately it's her life, and she will learn from any mistakes she makes. But I'd really like to talk to her and give her a different perspective from her parents -- that it's okay not to wait until marriage, but that she shouldn't do it if she doesn't wholeheartedly want to, and that it's better to wait until you're with someone you really care about. She looks up to me and my boyfriend very much, and I think she might listen if we were the ones talking to her about it. Any suggestions for having this difficult conversation?
  12. I've heard the term most frequently applied in the context of romantic relationships, to describe someone who ignores his emotions and acts on the way he thinks he should feel, rather than on the way he does feel. While emotions are not tools of cognition, introspection can reveal that an emotion has a source in a fact one had not previously acknowledged. For example, a woman meets a brilliant, successful, charming, good-looking man. They begin a romantic relationship, and when he asks her to marry him, she says yes -- thinking in her head that of course she should marry him, but feeling in her heart that something isn't right. Her head is telling her, "He's intelligent, and gorgeous, and he has so many achievements for me to admire, so I have every reason to want to be with him!" Her heart is at odds with her head -- and, as it turns out, her "something isn't right" feeling stems from the fact that she simply doesn't feel comfortable opening up to him in an intimate way, because on the couple of occasions she has tried to do so, he hasn't really listened to her. By accepting his proposal in spite of her doubts, she is acting on how she thinks she should feel rather than paying attention to how she actually does feel and figuring out why she feels that way. She will not be happy with her choice -- because in ignoring her emotions, she is actually ignoring an important fact that would change her rational evaluation of her situation. In Atlas Shrugged, Galt says that if there's a conflict between your head and your heart, you should follow your head -- but this is not to say "ignore your emotions." It means that if there's a conflict, you should take the time to figure out *why* your head and your heart are in conflict. It could be that your heart -- your subconscious -- is evaluating a fact that your head has missed.
  13. This post makes me smile because it reminds me of something my boyfriend has told me about very early in our dating life (before we even met in person). We met online, on a personals site that asked one fill out various fields including "The last great book I read was..." I took it very literally ("the LAST great book I read was...") and felt that many of the books I'd read in the previous few months hadn't blown me away, so I answered the question with, "Does Frank Longo's Cranium-Crushing Crosswords count as reading?" (For crossword lovers, it really is an excellent book of puzzles!) My boyfriend later told me that while he'd been interested by the rest of my profile, he was worried by my answer to that question -- "are crosswords all she does? does she ever READ?" I am in fact a voracious reader, but I can see how he wouldn't have known that at the time! Anyway, like others who've posted on this thread, the mere presence on a man's bookshelf of a book I found objectionable would not be reason to stop dating him -- I'd want to know why he owned it. If he frequently blogs about the evils of religion, it's absolutely fine to have a shelf full of religious tomes to use as source material for the blog posts. If he disagrees with Plato's ideas, but owns a volume of Plato's works because a beloved family member inscribed it to him, that's fine too. If he has a bookcase full of bad ideas because he agrees with them, I would have to break it off -- but it wouldn't be because of his ownership of the books. That's merely a symptom of the underlying problem.
  14. Dagny definitely had short hair: "Then I saw that you wore a long gown, the color of ice, like the tunic of a Grecian goddess, but you had the short hair and imperious profile of an American woman." (AS, pg 718 of paperback edition -- this is when Galt is telling her about the first time he saw her.) I think longer hair is associated with femininity because men usually cannot grow long, lustrous, beautiful hair (with a few rare exceptions, the men I've seen who have long hair have ratty hair that looks like the texture of a Brillo pad) and because long hair can get in the way of doing work: it has to be tied back out of one's face, and it can get caught on things (when my hair was waist-length, I was forever getting it tangled on screws on the backs of chairs -- OUCH!). To me long hair is a symbol of luxury on a woman: Not only does it have to be cared for assiduously in order to keep it beautiful, but because it does get in the way of doing certain tasks, having long hair is an indication that one does not have to spend one's days in manual labor. I like the feminine feeling of long hair, and I like it when my boyfriend runs his fingers through it. Plus, I am a runner, so I need to keep it out of my face when I run -- that would mean either a very short pixie cut, which I don't have the facial bone structure to pull off a la Natalie Portman, or else a ponytail. So I keep my hair long enough for a ponytail. I will definitely never go back to waist length -- it didn't look healthy at that length and it was ALWAYS in the way!
  15. Thanks! Hee hee...I figure this is the only occasion of the year at which it is socially acceptable to wear my pajamas in public, so I'm damn well going to do it! Those PJs have gotten me in newspapers, magazines, and a movie (Wordplay) -- not too shabby.
  16. After a disappointing 31st-place finish in 2007, I was determined to do better at this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I was in the top 10 in 2005, and wanted to get back in it. I made a conscious decision not to train excessively -- I had done something like 20 puzzles a day in the three months leading up to the 2007 tournament, and it obviously got me nowhere. I knew at this point I needed to work on my accuracy, not my speed, so I started giving myself standing orders like "If that answer doesn't feel right, something is definitely wrong" and "check your work!" I was more accurate this time around, if not perfect the way I wanted to be (but the mistake I made, I would not have caught during a normal end-of-puzzle accuracy check), and pulled myself back up to 12th place. Not good enough to get back into the top 10, but still pretty darn good out of 700 people. As we Phillies fans say, next year, man!
  17. I'm trying to work this one out on my own and haven't figured out the answer yet, so I could use some help. As those who read my healthcare blog, ReasonPharm, will know, I'm a staunch advocate of a free market in medicine -- including removing the prescription requirement from drugs, because the nanny state should not be able to tell me I *have* to see a doctor for medicines I am putting in my own body. No one will bear the risk but me, so why should the government be able to interfere? The one area where I'm not sure if this applies is antibiotics. Under laissez-faire capitalism, the manufacturer has the right to sell whatever drugs he wishes at whatever price the market will bear, and the patient has the right to purchase whatever drugs he or she pleases. If a drug gets misused -- say, a man decides to take birth-control pills on a lark and he feels nauseous -- nobody's rights are violated just because the patient unwisely took a drug that was no use to him. But, with antibiotics and antivirals, this is not true. Bacteria and viruses quickly evolve defenses against drugs, more so the more often these drugs are used. More potent (and often more toxic) therapies then need to be used to kill these resistant bugs, and eventually you get "superbugs" that can't be stopped with pharmaceuticals. In this case, misuse of a drug *potentially* (though not always actually) causes harm to people other than those taking the drug, because a resistant strain could infect others. This being the case, does the right to buy and sell win, or does the fact that one does not have the right to violate others' rights, even unintentionally (as with a sick person who may forcibly be quarantined to keep him from infecting others), win?
  18. I wholeheartedly agree! I get it, he couldn't spell and had little command of grammar -- which is so insignificant compared to his remarkable achievements that I am more than willing to overlook this foible. (And this from a former editor -- I'm usually hypersensitive to bad spelling and grammar!) But Renehan beats it into the ground. It's almost as if Renehan was thinking, "I'll never do anything as great as Vanderbilt did...but at least I can spell!" This is why I recommend the Croffut book as well -- for a healthy contrast to this attitude.
  19. Perhaps I should not properly review this book since I haven't yet finished it, but I'm recommending this biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt mostly on the strength of its subject matter. Unfortunately, the author suffers from a bit of the usual altruism-is-good rubbish, vaguely smearing Vanderbilt for not being a philanthropist and gratuitously equating Ayn Rand's philosophy with social Darwinism. However, Vanderbilt is such a fascinating person that when Renehan is simply reporting the facts and not editorializing, I can't put the book down. I want to know more about this titan of American industry! Few other biographers have covered Vanderbilt. I would recommend W.A. Croffut's book Vanderbilts and the History of Their Fortune, which was written at the turn of the 20th century. Although Renehan points out that Croffut and other Vanderbilt biographers may have fudged their facts at times, the Croffut book is worth reading because of its benevolent attitude towards business and the tycoons who are the prime movers behind it. Sadly, this attitude is absent from Commodore, so I'd read Renehan for the most detailed account and Croffut for a refreshing view.
  20. I also love Watership Down. My current favorite non-Rand novel is Mila 18, which I reviewed back when I was still writing for the Atlasphere. It's an amazing story of heroes who refused to give in to the Nazis during WWII, and I love that the women are just as brave as the men without being unfeminine.
  21. The intent of makeup is not to deceive or to fake reality -- it's to enhance reality. If I put on candy-apple-red lipstick, my lips might look nice in that color (enhancement), but nobody who looks at me is going to think that my lips are naturally that color. It's true that with more natural-looking colors someone who doesn't know that my lips are naturally almost the same color as my skin could think that my lips are the light pink color lipstick provides, but again, the intent is not to deceive but enhance. I know of no situation I can think of in which I would be attempting to gain a value by deceiving someone else into thinking my lips are a color they aren't (if that were a deciding factor in whether a man wanted to date me, I'd consider him too stuck on individual concretes to be worth a second date). If I had been wearing makeup when I first began dating my boyfriend (I wasn't, I actually almost never do*), I would have been forthright about it at the time, just in case that was something he cared about. So a woman who wears makeup is not pretending to be more beautiful than she is; she is in fact making herself more beautiful, albeit on a temporary basis. * Because I'm lazy about putting it on, not because I have anything against it philosophically.
  22. Oh, yes! My choir has sung his "O Magnum Mysterium" and "Se per havervi, oime" and both are beautiful. Some other works I've really enjoyed singing: Daniel Pinkham's Wedding Cantata, "Ave Maris Stella" by Otto Olsson, "Sleeping Out: Full Moon" by Joshua Shank, "Music to Hear" by George Shearing (fun choral jazz, with texts by Shakespeare) and "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine" by Eric Whitacre.
  23. There is certainly room for collaboration in a world that recognizes the sovereignty of an individual over his own life. Some tasks are simply too large for a single person to achieve entirely on his own -- say, for example, a man wants to build an oil well. If he has to look around for a suitable site, design the architecture of the well, create the machinery to drill the well, operate the machinery, and build a pipeline to pump the oil to his customers, he might spend his entire life and not finish the project. Instead, he collaborates -- perhaps he takes charge of locating a site, but collaborates with an architect who knows how to design the well, an engineer who plans out the machinery to drill it, etc. Each of these men has a distinct individual contribution to the project as they work together. Each of the men is justifiably proud of his own contribution and feels a sense of ownership of the project -- without deceiving himself into thinking that the other men made no contribution. This is collaboration without collectivism.
  24. With my puzzlemaking partner, I've been in the New York Times (and almost all of the other major puzzle markets) before, but this is the first time my name appears on the puzzle byline for a Sunday crossword. So, enjoy "Baby Talk," which appears here. Paid registration is required to view the puzzle -- or get a copy of today's paper and start solving!
  25. Now you've gone and made me hungry, and I just had lunch! The last time I was stinking drunk was in college, well before I discovered Objectivism. I got plastered many times, once badly enough to get mightily sick the next morning. That experience pretty much killed my attraction to drunkenness. That and the empty calories -- I was about 25 pounds heavier in college than I am now. That being said, I do enjoy a drink once in a while -- usually a glass of wine or a good beer. I'm not fond of bitterness either (I hate coffee with every fiber of my soul), but there are plenty of wines and beers that I enjoy. (For those of you who've bashed beer in this post, try the good stuff -- say, Franziskaner or Negra Modelo. It's worlds different from the junk advertised in most beer commercials!) I no longer drink for the mood-altering effect, but because a good glass of wine or beer can really enhance the taste of a fine meal. Yum!
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