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Everything posted by stellavision

  1. I don't live in Philly any longer, though I grew up there. Depending on the actions of a certain government agency, I'll either be visiting my family in the Philly 'burbs 12/28-12/30, or I'll be here working in NYC. So if you guys end up having a dinner meetup one of those days, I may be able to put in an appearance -- but won't know until tomorrow evening whether I'll be in town or whether I have to stay put and work.
  2. I like the Philadelphia Museum of Art a lot, in spite of the Cy Twombly "Fifty Days at Ilium" crap that bluecherry is talking about. There are still plenty of good pieces to see. Make sure to hit the Reading Terminal Market for lunch at least once, and Capogiro Gelateria. The latter has the best gelato I've ever had. That includes anything I've had in NYC or on a trip to Rome and Florence. All of the ingredients are impeccably sourced and the resulting combination of flavor and texture is one I regularly have dreams about.
  3. I had a credit card once that I always paid on time. One month, I glanced at my bill a little too quickly and read an 8 as a 3. So when I wrote the check for the bill, I was $5 under. The bank charged me interest on the entire month's balance, plus a $35 fee -- for being $5 short! I called customer service and hollered, but all I got was "it's a legitimate charge." It may have been allowable according to the fine print of the agreement, but it sure seemed like a crappy way to treat someone who'd been paying bills on time for years. I hung up in sheer frustration. I later learned that I would have been much more likely to have gotten a refund of the fee if I had approached the situation differently -- calling and politely, but firmly, stating that I thought the fee was out of proportion to the mistake and to please cancel my card immediately. It's not that you catch more flies with honey -- it's that the choice for the bank turns from "charge the customer or don't charge the customer?" to "pocket a one-time $35 fee and lose the customer, or forgo the fee and keep the years' worth of fees charged to merchants whenever she goes shopping?" I've read that many banks will waive fees if asked by a long-standing, reliable customer so as to avoid losing the account.
  4. Excellent! I think the same trick my husband used on me might work for you -- The Ominous Parallels is, unfortunately, all too timely of a work right now. Perhaps you could suggest reading it together and talking about it? Or a shorter fiction work like Noble Vision (again, sadly, far too close to reality) -- the latter could be really fun to read aloud with each other, particularly since there's a romance within the story. Her reaction to the ideas will tell you a lot about whether she's really an Objectivist and just didn't know it
  5. I think my husband could have written this post six years ago when we first met (except that I had actually read Ayn Rand's fiction). He says I was "not a difficult convert." He never preached at me, but we discussed ideas from the beginning; I was much of the way there in my implicit philosophy, but he asked me questions that got me to give more thought to my beliefs. One of the things he mentioned in our wedding vows was that he loves me because I don't allow myself to be swayed by naive arguments, but that I will change my mind instantaneously if presented with a rational argument against my position. He did buy me a copy of The Ominous Parallels (along with a couple of more traditionally "romantic" gifts) for our first Christmas together. It was partly a gift for my enjoyment (because I'm certainly a bookworm, and hubby also thought I would be interested in that book more than other nonfiction by Rand or Peikoff because of the tie to Nazi Germany's history) and partly a test to see if I would embrace the ideas. I must have passed, as I am now his wife. Looking back, it's rather funny that on our first date we discussed the FDA (at the time, I thought it served a useful purpose), and now here I am, the author of an 8,000-word article on why that agency should be abolished. Like you, early on we talked a lot about great music and art as well as *ideas* -- and I think that is the key. If she's intellectually curious, and it sounds like she is, you are off to an excellent start.
  6. Honestly, it doesn't sound like you like her that much. Most of the time when you see a "should I break up with this person?" post, it's "She's great, but there's this major flaw..." I don't even see the "she's great" part anywhere -- only your reluctance to hurt her. It's not your job to play Pygmalion -- doing so usually leads to frustration on both your part (because it's impossible to change someone else's behavior -- you can give encouragement and help if she decides FOR HERSELF that she wants to change, but trying to be the instigator of someone else's change is almost always futile) and hers (because, if she doesn't arrive at a decision to change ON HER OWN, she will resent your trying to do it). You don't want to hurt her by breaking up with her, but if you stay in an unfulfilling relationship, you will hurt her -- and yourself -- much more, because she will continue to feel "like a dumbass" and unappreciated over a longer period of time. It's far better to spend your time looking for someone who values intellectual discussion as much as you do, and she can in turn find someone who is happy just making small talk about the latest movie or sports game.
  7. True. It wasn't only the facial expressions, but the characters' carriage, purposeful manner of walking (or lack thereof, in the case of a villain), and other movements that showed that their physical appearance was married to their character. This is what comes of idealizing humans -- presenting man as he should be and ought to be -- but in real life, looks can be deceiving. A model who looks proud in a photograph might only have been posed that way by her photographer, and in the next moment her natural expression shows that she's not as interesting as she looked in her photograph. Or, a heroic man who's having a bad day will look dejected, but normally his face shows his pride in his achievements. Recall, also, that in Atlas Shrugged looks were deceiving to one of the characters. Hank Rearden chose his wife based on her proud carriage and her breathlessness at being shown his mills, which he mistook for admiration of his life's work and the motive power it took to achieve it. In fact, she was always motivated by wanting to find a great man so she could destroy him -- but he didn't read that in her face.
  8. One thing to note: If the items you are purchasing are (individually) $110 or less, you will not pay sales tax. At $110, you'll start paying another 8.875%. (If you have time for a side trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania charges no tax on clothing!) Are you looking for high-end clothing? If so, you can find it at shops like Barneys, Faconnable, and Bergdorf Goodman, though you will pay a steep price for it. A step down but still not cheap is Brooks Brothers. And if you want something inexpensive or moderately priced, the Gap and Banana Republic are good choices. Alternately, try Macy's or Bloomingdale's. The shopping experience will be chaotic, because the stores attract both shoppers and tourists who are there just to gawk, but the selection is large and the prices are often quite reasonable. Now's a good time to be shopping -- there are many markdowns since people are spending less due to the economy.
  9. I absolutely love Top Chef! I have been to Perilla, the restaurant owned by season 1 winner Harold Dieterle, and it was fantastic. I love to see what kind of food these guys can come up with on such short notice. I'm not so crazy about Stefan. He seems good, but not quite as good as he thinks he is -- Jamie was absolutely right to tell him it was crazy to make a hot soup on an 85-degree day (especially the gross, humid, 85-degree days we get here in NYC!), and although Team Chicken won, the judges and some of the guests commented on how odd it was to serve hot soup on a day like that. And he seems to think like an eight-year-old about Jamie -- "She acts annoyed at me, that means she loves me!" Not so much. I'm rooting for Jamie. She's fairly consistently in the top group.
  10. I think it's not "be yourself" exactly, for the reasons Matus1976 describes -- sometimes people use "being yourself" as an excuse to be lazy. After all, James Taggart just wanted to "be himself" with Cherryl -- but "himself" was a conglomeration of bad premises and malevolent motives. He wanted someone who would love him without his having to deserve that love. When people use "I just want someone I can be myself with" in THAT sense, they don't deserve real romantic companionship. I think it's more "Be the person you want to be, and not the person you think you need to be in order to get this woman." That is, if a man takes a hard look at himself and realize that he has a lot of work to do in order to be a better person, he should do that work and not content himself with the lazy "I just want to be myself and find someone who loves me for who I am." Otherwise, the only romantic partner he has a chance of ending up with is the kind who would accept all comers -- hardly the "highest type of woman he can find." But he should not make the mistake of acting in a way counter to his normal self only to attract women -- that's second-handed. If he works out at the gym because he knows his pot belly could use a few crunches, that's good; if he thinks his body is fine, and only works out because he thinks doing arm curls with the heaviest barbells he can find will help him pick up women at the gym, that is second-handed. Any woman he meets that way will, if she sticks around long enough, figure out that what she thought attracted her to him (an interest in fitness) was a sham. As for the original post, I agree that romantic gestures should be proportional to the value of the relationship, and the more they demonstrate how highly the man values the woman (or vice versa), the better. My fiance doesn't just bring me flowers; he brings me irises, because he knows I like purple and that purple flowers make me smile. He doesn't just bring chocolates; he brings my favorite chocolates. I love that he knows what I like and that it gives him selfish pleasure to see me enjoying something he has brought me. If he had just handed me a bouquet of red roses on our second date, I would have been put off, because he didn't know me well enough at that point to value me highly or to know what I liked.
  11. I find Vanderbilt in particular a fascinating historical figure. I commented on a recent biography, Commodore, in this post. I don't like the sneering way in which the biographer treated his subject, but Vanderbilt's story is so great that even a businessman-hating biographer can't kill the enjoyment of learning more about it. As I mentioned in the thread, Vanderbilts and the History of Their Fortune, although written for young adults, has a far better sense of the Commodore's heroism, if less in the way of historical detail. I recommend reading them both -- Commodore for historical detail and Vanderbilts for a truly refreshing perspective on one of history's greatest businessmen.
  12. Tenure! That's the best news I've heard all day! I may just have to ask him. As for why I figured a JOP would be preferable to a religious officiant, I figured that a JOP would perform a civil ceremony, which would not be religious, whereas a religious officiant, at least one from a non-"fuzzy" denomination, would be unwilling to do the ceremony without mentioning god. (My parents have a friend who's a minister whom they are pressing on me, and there's no way...there's one can of worms about asking him to perform a non-god ceremony, and another with having him at the wedding when we are not having anyone from the family except parents and siblings, much less family friends!)
  13. My fiance and I have just booked the location for our wedding. Yay! Not-so-yay: We need to find someone to marry us. Obviously a religious officiant is out of the question. A justice of the peace or judge would be ideal, but we do not actually want to get married in the courthouse (we want to pay someone to marry us at the location of our choice), and apparently there's a law in NY prohibiting justices and judges from accepting money for performing marriage ceremonies (other than salary for marriages performed at the courthouse). So from what I hear, it is nearly impossible to be married by a JOP or judge outside a courthouse unless the JOP happens to be a friend of the bride and groom who will do the ceremony as a favor. There's also the option of having a friend "ordained" online through the Universal Life Church, then registering him/her through a NYC government office to make the friend a legal wedding officiant. We would then, of course, ask said friend to perform a marriage ceremony with no mention of god or religion. However, I don't like the dishonesty of having one of our friends pretend to believe in god, even if it's just clicking some boxes on a Web form, solely to get "ordination" privileges. I've also heard the Society of Ethical Culture will perform secular ceremonies, but that group's beliefs include an unhealthy dose of altruism. So we could get a secular ceremony from them, but would we be able to get language that reflects our belief in romantic love as a *selfish* value? And even if we could, would we want to support an organization -- by paying such an officiant -- that perpetuates altruistic beliefs? I'm wondering whom other Objectivists have hired for their wedding officiants, particularly if you live in an area with such restrictive rules as New York. Is there another obvious option I'm missing?
  14. We went to Rome and Florence and had a great time. I could have spent all day looking at Michelangelo's David, but had to content myself with about twenty minutes of solid admiration. As for the wedding date, probably June of next year. I'd love to do it sooner (I've waited for him for almost five years!), but we do want to take a honeymoon immediately after the wedding, and we pretty much have the same issues scheduling that as we did scheduling our Italy trip this year: no more vacation time left this year, he'll be studying for the CFA exam from February to the first weekend in June, and I'll be training for the NYC marathon from July to November. We could do January, which might happen if we're able to save a significant amount of money by doing so, but so far that hasn't been the case as much as I thought it would be. As I've said to everyone who asks, it's more about crossing off months on the calendar that don't work than about choosing a favored date!
  15. I'm engaged! The man I love proposed to me while we were on vacation in Italy -- a fitting end to a wonderful trip full of great art, good food, and romantic moments. I'm enjoying the blissful time between when he asked me to be his wife and when I get to tell my parents there will be no mention of god at the wedding!
  16. I've always picked up new languages pretty easily, and I do enjoy learning a new one -- but its worth to you will depend upon what situations you plan to be in and whether you love language for its own sake. (I do -- I love clever wordplay, the kind of thing that often does not survive translation.) Do you want to travel a lot? If so, it can be incredibly satisfying to chat with locals in their own language, especially because unless you have a pretty good command of the language, they will often just brush aside your attempts and speak to you in English. So if a native speaker permits you to carry on a conversation, you know you've mastered the language pretty well! Or you may want to read works by a favorite author in the language in which they were written -- say, learning German so you can read Goethe. I cannot second this point enough. Pronouncing the words in your head is not enough -- true practice comes with speaking as much as possible, preferably with a native speaker who can catch your mistakes and help you learn idioms. (I just returned from a vacation in Italy -- my boyfriend and I had tried to learn a little Italian before going, and we found we were emphasizing the wrong syllables often, thereby rendering ourselves incomprehensible to the locals.) Your profile doesn't say where you live, but if you live in or near a large city or a university, you can probably find an individual or group to converse with, or just start one yourself (Craigslist is great for that!). I founded a German-speaking group here in NYC 6 years ago, and although I don't participate any longer, from what I hear it's still going strong. Some large cities also have language and culture institutes where you can take classes at a reasonable price -- I can think of at least four off the top of my head in New York (Instituto Cervantes for Spanish, Alliance Francaise for French, Deutsches Haus for German, China Institute for Chinese). From my experience with the Deutsches Haus, the classes are of good quality, plus there's the bonus that you instantly meet others who are interested in learning the same language, so you can hone your skills with your classmates outside of class.
  17. That's a good way of putting it. I can't and don't want to take the place of her parents, but I also won't censor myself around her -- she knows, for example, that I don't believe in God, and I've told her why on occasion. I view a conversation about sex the same way: I'm not going to tell her what to do, I am not her mother. But I would like her to know that there's a way of looking at things other than what her parents tell her (religious, restricted) and the messages she may be picking up from her friends and the media (promiscuity is OK). She doesn't have to follow my advice, but I'd like to at least put it out there.
  18. I adore the Messiah, and have never gotten to sing it in its entirety. My high school used to do selections from it every year, and I desperately wanted to sing it, but I played viola at the time and the orchestra needed me as a violist more than the choir needed me as an alto, so I never got to do it. You have no idea how exciting it is to finally do it!
  19. Actually, the choir I am leaving, the Young New Yorkers' Chorus, sponsors a competition for young composers (I think 35 is the age limit) every year. Although I'm leaving the group, it's not because I don't like the choir and the sound we make -- the singers are very good indeed -- it's mostly because of the repertoire we've done of late. So I think the competition is well worth entering, and I'd love to see an Objectivist win. See www.ynyc.org for more details -- the entries are taken every year in the fall, three finalists are chosen and commissioned to write a piece by March, and the three pieces are performed at the group's year-end concert in June. Everyone who enters gets a monetary prize, but the winner gets a larger one.
  20. Last night I auditioned for the Oratorio Society of New York, a choir that performs regularly in Carnegie Hall and gets written up in the New York Times. I figured I wouldn't get in -- I am a good singer and have plenty of choral experience, but good singers are a dime a dozen in New York. But I also knew the only way I'd be 100% certain of not getting in is by not trying out. Well, I tried out, and after the shortest audition of my life, I got in immediately! I nailed the sight reading, which didn't surprise me, but I was shocked that the director praised my high range (I am most comfortable in the low end of the alto range). I'm so excited -- the choir I've been singing with the past three years has an excellent sound, but lately we've been doing a lot of avant-garde stuff that can barely be called music (look up "Past Life Melodies" on YouTube for an example). Now I'm going to be singing Handel's Messiah and Bach's Mass in B Minor. Much more my style!
  21. Oh...I think we've misunderstood each other. JASKN's original question indicated that if someone you were in love with were to somehow contract the disease, then would love be sufficient to outweigh the disease in your evaluation of that person. A relationship with someone else before meeting me is not something I would be upset by; I certainly don't expect to be the first woman my lover has ever come across. But if I were in love with someone, which would presumably be in the context of an exclusive relationship, and he one day came to me and said, "I just found out I have HIV," then that almost certainly means one of three things: 1) he cheated on me; 2) he's been using drugs; or 3) he contracted the virus much earlier, always assumed he was negative, and didn't find out until now. 1) and 2) are completely inexcusable. 3) might possibly be forgivable, but I'd be pretty angry, particularly because I then would have no idea of how long I could potentially have been exposed to the virus without knowing it.
  22. You are right that consensual unprotected sex and IV drug use do not cover 100% of HIV cases -- I would certainly never condemn a person who contracted HIV through rape or a medical mistake. (As for "the condom broke," if I'm in a relationship with that person, that is hardly going to be a sufficient excuse -- what was he doing with that condom with someone else in the first place?) But in this country, where almost all cases of HIV are acquired through sex or drug use, if my partner were to tell me one day that he was positive, he had better have a damn good explanation for how neither of those methods is how he got the disease to keep me from walking out the door. Not because HIV has a moral stigma in and of itself, but because either sex outside the relationship or drug use would be a deal-breaker for me.
  23. I think the latter choice is much more likely to be self-immolating (and therefore immoral)! After all, you do not just "somehow" contract HIV -- unless one works in the medical professions (in which case an accidental needle stick can transfer the virus from a patient to a doctor or nurse, but even this is quite rare), one gets it through unprotected sex with someone else (a no-no unless the couple has agreed to a nonexclusive relationship) or through IV drug use. I, for one, could not imagine sticking by someone who did either of those things while in a relationship with me. As for beginning to date someone with HIV, why would that be immoral? While it is still an incurable infection, modern medications have turned HIV into a chronic disease for most patients, rather than the swift killer it used to be -- and when couples practice safe sex, the HIV-negative partner can remain negative for years. Of course when evaluating the person as a potential mate, you would have to weigh the possibility of your becoming infected as well as how important it is to you to be able to have unprotected sex along with his or her other qualities. But if the person is otherwise compatible with you, I think it would be a mistake to dismiss him or her out of hand just for being HIV positive.
  24. I did enjoy Richard's speech at the end of Confessor very much. To say why would be to spoil the ending, though, so I'll say no more
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