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necrovore

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Everything posted by necrovore

  1. Objectivism would have enormous benefits for dummies. Historically, the poor have done better under capitalism (even though it has never been fully implemented) than under any other system. The false and pernicious notion that Objectivism is "just for Supermen" needs to be dispelled. However, there is probably no reason to fear that a real book like this will ever exist. The "For Dummies" series is trademarked by its publisher. Not just anyone can put out a "For Dummies" book. For similar reasons, you will probably not see "Objectivism in a Nutshell" with an extinct animal on the cover. At least not officially. (Edit: added parenthetical)
  2. I used to chat in #geekspeak but I didn't start going there until what were, unbeknownst to me, its later years... It is possible to run your own IRC server, in which case you can control all aspects of its operation. People have to get their IRC clients to log directly into your server. Your server is unlikely to have a wide variety of channels because no one will go there except people who are interested in its main channel. It is also possible to run a channel on an existing server or network of servers (e.g., DALNet, Undernet). In that case you only have as much property as the network lets you secure, according to its own policies. Back when I used to use IRC, it was also common for these networks to be abused, in violation of their own policies, which means in practice that you can have trouble securing things even though you technically have (as per policy) a right to possess them. #geekspeak was run on its own server, but a bot relayed things back and forth between it and I don't know which one of the major networks. IRC servers typically run on ports that are blocked by corporate firewalls, meaning that you might be unable to chat from work if this plan is implemented. Then again, the administrators could run IRC protocol on port 80 on a different IP address. Another common problem with IRC is that, unless you use a relay, you expose your IP address to everyone in the channel. (If you do use a relay you expose the IP address of the relay, so few service companies are willing to host one.) A malicious person can use this to launch a DDOS attack against you, and there will be no way for you to tell where it is coming from. (DDOS = distributed denial of service.) Many ISPs will then disconnect you as if the attack is your fault. Others will happily bill you for the bandwidth. Fear of DDOS attacks -- even though I was never hit by one -- is what caused me to stop using IRC.
  3. Black people are typically better runners. White people are typically better swimmers. This is not due to racism in running and swimming but due to slight variations in build which ultimately have a genetic basis. Mohawk Indians have been sought after for their ability to walk the high steel and not lose their balance. This ability of theirs could be genetic. Men are generally taller and stronger than women; women generally weigh less than men. In special situations where a person's height or strength or weight might make the difference between whether they can do a job successfully or not, the advantage may clearly go to one sex or the other. There are some cases where some people will have a natural advantage over others because of their genetic makeup, and I don't see anything wrong with allowing people who have that advantage to use it. A person can also have legitimate advantages because of birthplace or family. For example, if you were writing somebody's biography, you might have a natural advantage if you are his cousin -- or spouse -- that an unrelated New York professional might not have. If you are born in a certain place at a certain time, you might have a useful or interesting perspective (e.g., on a historic event that happened when you were young) that people born elsewhere would not have. This is not the same thing as punishing people who have a disadvantage. One boundary is drawn on the basis of individual rights. Rights do not vary according to race, sex, or genetics, but are the same for everyone. Among these rights are the right of voluntary association. If you're hiring, you can hire whomever you want. It would be a crime to prevent people from hiring whomever they want. Another boundary is drawn on the basis of reality. Failure to hire the best person is not a crime, but it is a vice. Reality will be on your side to the maximum extent if you hire the best person for the job without regard for irrelevant factors, even if these factors are, in general, statistically correlated. Disregarding genetics, birthplace, and so forth means not trying to fight people's natural advantages. It also means not assuming advantages exist when, in a particular instance, they don't. Statistical generalizations are observations about reality, not substitutes for it. Sometimes the tallest person available is a woman; some women are taller than some men. Sometimes the best swimmer available is black. Sometimes the person who was there at the time of the historical event is a poor observer or a poor writer and therefore would not write as good an article as the New York professional who relies on research instead of personal experience. It would be a denial of reality to deny the existence of these situations when they occur. Statistics and prejudice are not the same thing. Prejudice exists when a person refuses to look at reality on the alleged basis that he already knows everything he needs to. White people are generally better swimmers than black people, but that doesn't mean you can look at a black person and say, "well, he's black, therefore he can't swim as well as a white person." Some black people swim better than some white people. If you pass over the best person, you won't do as well. This is true even in the absence of competition. Prejudice is also a vice outside of hiring, in more personal relationships, such as friendships. If you turn down a friendship or a romance on the basis of some statistical generalization that does not apply in that specific instance -- because you figure it applies most of the time so you don't have to actually check -- then you are missing out. There is a cost in checking statistical generalizations but there is also a cost in acting on unchecked ones. The best policy is to look at reality -- at the particular instance that confronts you. Finally, it's important not to confuse statistical generalizations with inductive ones. Inductive generalizations, such as the law of gravity, are certain within the context in which they are formed. Statistical generalizations are by definition uncertain. That is why they are useless.
  4. A good plot story has to have conflict. The problem with perfectly rational characters is that they are unconflicted. That's a great way to live your life but, because it causes things to work out so well, it tends to make a poor story. The way Ayn Rand allowed her perfectly rational characters to have conflict was by having them be attracted to less rational people. As a result, they often had to choose between their own rationality and their friendships and romances. Howard Roark was attracted to Dominique Francon, but he could not give in to her ideas. John Galt's ideas led him along a course of action that would destroy Dagny Taggart's railroad even though he cared about her very much.
  5. Although it's true that you cannot write from floating abstractions, it is not true that you have to experience, yourself, personally, everything that you write about. Suppose you write a story about Thomas Jefferson; do you have to have personally met him? No, but you do have to know something about him, such as can be learned from his writings, and from writings he may have read, and from writings of others about him, and the general atmosphere of the time. Suppose you write a story about space travel. Do you have to have personally experienced space travel? No, but you might be able to learn a lot about it by studying the relevant laws of physics, and recent scientific discoveries (of NASA and other space agencies), and the writings of people who have experienced space travel. The same thing applies if you want to write about romance. It would certainly be helpful to have a romance of your own, if you can get one, but even if you do have one, you need to be able to consider other romances in order to prevent your fictitious ones from all being clones of your real one. (Also it will help to have some idea of what you are getting into when you start a real one!) You have to consider a large number of romances, so that you can see the possible variations, and that means almost all of them will not be your own. You can consider the romances of other people you know, people you don't know, historical figures, even fictional characters. When you have an abundance of that kind of information -- and only when you have it -- you can use your imagination. Imagination only rearranges, and it has to have something to rearrange. But you don't have to commit a murder to write a murder mystery...
  6. I suspect that depression starts as a feeling that "this situation is bad, and there's nothing I can do about it." If one has thoughts that lead to such a feeling, and one engages in those thoughts continuously, then one will eventually become depressed. I think the thoughts cause the brain chemical imbalance, and not the other way around. I suspect the brain has the ability to alter its own chemistry in order to do things such as thinking differently under stress. (If something startles you -- even a thought inside your own head -- you may feel a surge of adrenalin. There are other hormones besides adrenalin which serve other purposes but may be triggered by certain thoughts.) Stress is supposed to be a temporary situation. When stress becomes long-lasting, the altered chemistry can do damage. Brain chemistry is not supposed to be different for that long. Genes may make it easier for some people to produce the altered chemistry, or may make it more effective on some people, or may make it easier for some people to be damaged by it. However, genes only create potentialities. [Assume for the rest of this that "you" are the depressed person...] Sometimes depression can become a feedback loop where your own depression prevents you from seeing the solution to your bad situation or even prevents you from realizing, consciously, what is bad about the situation in the first place. Sometimes you can solve the situation and find the feeling persisting for a while afterward. It is also possible that you think the situation is bad but it really isn't, or that you think it's worse than it really is. If your brain chemistry is way off, then it may be necessary to use drugs to restore balance. However, only a doctor can make that determination, and in any case the drugs should be temporary. If your brain chemistry is only slightly off, then take a deep breath and try to think rationally. Do what you can to de-stress. Since I think depression is ultimately caused by thinking you are helpless and in bad situation, drugs are not a permanent solution. The best solution is to identify the bad situation, look at it objectively, and, if it is really bad, find a way to change it, if that is possible. If it is not really bad, then you have to understand why, and then the depression will go away. You may need the help of someone else who can see your situation and offer a perspective you may not have thought of. A friend may be able to do this, or a professional. Sometimes you have to do a lot of work to get out of a bad situation. It helps to know what kind of work is necessary and it helps to know that you are making progress, even if slowly. Doing that work will not end the depression right away, but it will change the situation eventually. Knowing that you are doing something can help you fight feelings of depression. ("Have you noticed that the imbecile always smiles? Man's first frown is the first touch of God on his forehead. The touch of thought..." -- Ellsworth Toohey, The Fountainhead.)
  7. IQ can be misleading, but it doesn't have to be. It would be fair to say that IQ measures how well you do on the types of problems that show up on IQ tests. The time limit on such tests is artificial, but these types of problems do show up in other places, especially in academic settings, though also in some business office settings. IQ tests do not measure things like social skills, artistic ability, beauty, or physical dexterity, and yet all these things can be helpful to people who have them. My SAT math score came out higher than my English score. For other people the opposite occurs. On some tests it is possible to get a high score just by doing especially well on some sections, even if you do poorly on others; IQ then is an average. The SAT also has a low ceiling, so it's very possible that somebody who gets an 800 on one section and does poorly on the other might have a higher IQ than the SAT gives him credit for. When I was in elementary school, they gave an aptitude test, and I remember getting straight 99th percentiles, except in "listening comprehension," where I was consistently 30th percentile or so. This is due to my tendency to woolgather when people are lecturing and is, to this day, a major reason why I slightly dislike ARI lectures and prefer books and articles. (I do better when I take notes, and, with practice, I should improve.) [edit: added more about IQ as an average; split a paragraph]
  8. Being in Mensa is nothing; I know a member of the Triple Nine Society who hangs out here. High IQ societies can be fun, but they can also be awful; you get to see lots of wasted brain power, but you also get to see some that is well used. Objectivism is a refreshing break from the egalitarian attitude that a lot of people have, that high IQ people shouldn't be praised for their achievements because the achievements were "easy" for them, that the existence or achievements of high IQ people aren't "fair" to "everyone else" and should be punished, etc. But the seemingly opposite idea, that high IQ entitles you to automatic respect, is also not true. High IQ is a trait, like being tall. It can be a desirable trait in many contexts. Some people have it in abundance and others have to stand on the shoulders of giants. But agrippa1 is right; it's not what you got, it's what you do with it that counts.
  9. I'd like to announce Fiction Writers for Romanticism, a new mailing list for Objectivists and students of Objectivism who are writing, or trying to write, or would like to write, fiction that has the same Romantic feel that The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have. The purpose is not to create propaganda or didacticism, but to tell great stories that will appeal to the Objectivist spirit. Anybody who's interested is welcome to sign up.
  10. Fiction Writers for Romanticism now exists; please join if you're interested!
  11. Basically a sense of life (I am trying to define it myself, right here on the spot) is a set of subconscious feelings about existence and one's own place in it. It not only sums up to an emotion -- a benevolent or malevolent universe premise -- but it also includes emotions about particular things, about whatever a person deems important in his own life. For a fuller definition, I refer you to "Philosophy and Sense of Life" in The Romantic Manifesto. Objectivism is an explicit philosophy, not a subconscious feeling. It makes definite statements about existence and one's own place in it. However, it is also possible to sum up Objectivism in the form of an emotion, and I think that emotion would be the one you get from reading The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, particularly at the end when matters are resolved. I remember when I was reading Atlas Shrugged that I noticed the emotions it was making me feel. The emotions seemed to run the full gamut, including fear, anger, wonder, and joy. At the end, what I felt was a sense of happiness and anticipation. On a strictly emotional level, I think that is what Ayn Rand was trying to tell us: life can be like that. [Edit: minor changes.]
  12. Well, it's a bit harder when one is first getting started. I can start something on Yahoo! Groups, if nowhere else. Prodos used to run his lists there. Yes, I've read The Romantic Manifesto, and I recognize the difference between story and propaganda. When I described writing as a "different sort of activism" I meant very different: its purpose is not to teach but to show, or, more specifically, its purpose is to provide the audience with the experience of a sense of life. One of the great things that Objectivism has going for it is the sense of life that can be achieved through it. Fiction allows the portrayal of both the struggle and the triumph. Trying to pass off a lecture as a story is a kind of fraud, and audiences rightly resent it. Ayn Rand "got away with" Galt's speech (and Francisco's money speech, and Howard Roark's defense argument) not because of the philosophy the characters held, but because the speech (each speech) explained events in the novel (its novel). Some people don't understand this and condemn Ayn Rand herself as didactic, and may well say the same thing about any work that has an Objectivist slant to it, but they are wrong. No good story can avoid making philosophical statements. As The Romantic Manifesto points out, you make a philosophical statement when you choose whether or not to have a plot. Other statements work their ways into the story as it is developed. A writer's philosophy and sense of life should come out in his work, and I would like to do what I can to encourage the production of works, whether written by me or by others, where the sense of life that comes out in the work is an Objectivist one. There are many different ways to do that. There will always be people who object to Objectivist ideas in works, or who object to any ideas in works, or who object even to matters of structure that have implications regarding ideas, such as plot itself. As for me, I say those people are not part of my target audience. Objectivists are. However, I also do not want to write works that only Objectivists would want to read. I refuse to sell out my principles, but there are not enough Objectivists that I could make money by writing for them alone. The story has to come first, but philosophy always plays a supporting role. The group I form would be intended for Objectivists and serious students of Objectivism who write, or want to write, novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and/or teleplays, and market them to the general public. (I only leave out poetry and songwriting because such short works present entirely different problems, and usually have no need of plot or storytelling.) I want to leave out both general questions about writing and general questions about Objectivism, because there are other groups for those. This group should stand at the junction between the two and deal with issues that concern elements of both. The reading list would of course include the Aesthetics chapter in OPAR, and The Romantic Manifesto, The Art of Fiction, and The Art of Nonfiction. Have I just made the mailing list more or less interesting?
  13. Well, it's a bit harder when one is first getting started. I can start something on Yahoo! Groups, if nowhere else. Prodos used to run his lists there. Yes, I've read The Romantic Manifesto, and I recognize the difference between story and propaganda. When I described writing as a "different sort of activism" I meant very different: its purpose is not to teach but to show, or, more specifically, its purpose is to provide the audience with the experience of a sense of life. One of the great things that Objectivism has going for it is the sense of life that can be achieved through it. Fiction allows the portrayal of both the struggle and the triumph. Trying to pass off a lecture as a story is a kind of fraud, and audiences rightly resent it. Ayn Rand "got away with" Galt's speech (and Francisco's money speech, and Howard Roark's defense argument) not because of the philosophy the characters held, but because the speech (each speech) explained events in the novel (its novel). Some people don't understand this and condemn Ayn Rand herself as didactic, and may well say the same thing about any work that has an Objectivist slant to it, but they are wrong. No good story can avoid making philosophical statements. As The Romantic Manifesto points out, you make a philosophical statement when you choose whether or not to have a plot. Other statements work their ways into the story as it is developed. A writer's philosophy and sense of life should come out in his work, and I would like to do what I can to encourage the production of works, whether written by me or by others, where the sense of life that comes out in the work is an Objectivist one. There are many different ways to do that. There will always be people who object to Objectivist ideas in works, or who object to any ideas in works, or who object even to matters of structure that have implications regarding ideas, such as plot itself. As for me, I say those people are not part of my target audience. Objectivists are. However, I also do not want to write works that only Objectivists would want to read. I refuse to sell out my principles, but there are not enough Objectivists that I could make money by writing for them alone. The story has to come first, but philosophy always plays a supporting role. The group I form would be intended for Objectivists and serious students of Objectivism who write, or want to write, novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and/or teleplays, and market them to the general public. (I only leave out poetry and songwriting because such short works present entirely different problems, and usually have no need of plot or storytelling.) I want to leave out both general questions about writing and general questions about Objectivism, because there are other groups for those. This group should stand at the junction between the two and deal with issues that concern elements of both. The reading list would of course include the Aesthetics chapter in OPAR, and The Romantic Manifesto, The Art of Fiction, and The Art of Nonfiction. Have I just made the mailing list more or less interesting?
  14. There are mailing lists for Objectivist activists, bloggers, and academics. As for myself, I cannot join any of them: I am not in a position where my activism would be especially credible, I have other things to do besides the work required in maintaining a blog, and my academic days are almost certainly behind me. However, I like to think of myself as creative (or at least trying to be). Most of the time I am trying to write some story or other, and sometimes I even succeed in finishing one. The implication though is that I'd rather be working on stories than blog entries or LTEs. Writing fiction (I mean to include novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays) can be an effective form of activism -- as long as the stories are good. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are the primary examples. First and foremost they are excellent stories, but the problems the characters face can only be resolved by the exacting and scrupulous use of Objectivist principles. Much like certain problems in real life. It is interesting that Ayn Rand herself wrote her novels before she started writing columns and articles -- and in fact, had it not been for the novels, no one would have cared about the columns and articles. I have also read Terry Goodkind and Tales of the Mall Masters, and in so doing I saw the value of having other Objectivist fiction besides Ayn Rand's. I think it would be great if there were more Objectivist fiction. I am trying to create it myself, but there is one problem: writing good fiction is hard. Sometimes it is helpful for amateur writers like me to join writers' groups, where they can discuss techniques, critique each others' work, and just provide general encouragement to each other. Many such groups are online, but, to my knowledge, none for Objectivists. I know there are at least a small number of Objectivists here who are interested in writing fiction, but I do not know for sure how many. What I'm curious about is whether there would be enough interest to start a mailing list or something for amateur Objectivist fiction writers -- and whether the group would survive or splinter apart (e.g., would you be interested in the group if the members preferred to write in a different form or genre than you, or if they used substantially different techniques, or if they had substantially different skill levels?). I have never run a mailing list before and I'm not sure I want to, but I might consider joining one if it existed. Or a separate area could be created on this forum. So what do you think: could this be a good idea? [P.S.: because Objectivism is defined as Ayn Rand's philosophy, it might be confusing to refer to fiction as Objectivist when it was not written by Ayn Rand. Maybe I should say "Objectivist-leaning" fiction, or "Objectivism-influenced" fiction?]
  15. I doubt it: The woman in the original story is an example of the person who cheats on her code of morality and then blames herself rather than the code of morality. In this instance, she is rebelling against the public shaming which the church has adopted, but not against the code of morality itself. She has cheated on her code of morality, and blames herself. She wouldn't dare challenge the notion that it's morally wrong to sleep with someone you're not married to. Cheat on it, sure, but not challenge it. This sort of shaming exemplifies the rise of religion as a power in society. Most of the people in this woman's church are probably perfectly willing to go along with public shaming. I'm sure they'd like to extend that sort of thing into government as well. I doubt they will be shamed out of shaming by the appearance of the news article, either. In fact, since no moral basis for opposing shaming has been presented, shaming probably will become more popular and more widespread.
  16. Florida Woman Says Former Church Plans to Make Her Sins Public. There is not much I can say about this one. It seems to speak for itself. I suppose the moral of the story is, don't tell the church about your sins.
  17. necrovore

    Conflict

    Generally I think of a story as a crucible for a hero -- a series of events where the hero chooses a goal and then has to go through some kind of hell in order to achieve it. The reason why the hell is hell for him is that it forces him to give up some of his other values. This means that the conflict is not static; it develops and intensifies as the story progresses. Eventually it reaches a climax -- the hottest part of hell -- and the character has to make his decision final. That is his last chance to reverse it. Then, whatever he decides, he has to deal with the consequences. What you've set up is a story where perhaps Edwin pursues his idea of the job offer but has to go through a hell consisting of conflict with his wife. Another possible plot is that he decides to stay with his wife but pursues the construction of their business through the hell of knowing that it is not what he really wants, and perhaps having the bigger firm periodically sweeten the deal. Another possible plot would come from Michelle's point of view and have her pursue the launch of their company through a hell that consists of her husband's distraction and apathy, because he is not keen on continuing and wants to do something else. The problem is the climax. Any story worth its salt is going to take the conflict all the way to its logical conclusion (or nearly there). That means that your husband and wife are pretty much guaranteed to split up. Maybe not; maybe a last minute decision can save their marriage, but maybe such a decision cannot be. At first I thought that it was not a good enough conflict, but working through the above convinced me that it can be made into a good one. I suppose the question you must ask yourself is whether that is the story you want to tell -- and if not, what is.
  18. I usually don't have to cut people out of my life. They cut me out... sometimes before they even know me... I suppose I should just get used to it.
  19. Well, I have an interesting confession to make: I joined the Triple Nine Society in 2004, qualifying based on my old SAT score. My GRE score would also have qualified me, but I did not use it. Either score, according to TNS, is equivalent to an approximate IQ of 149. I was only a few points above their minimums, in both cases. Some of the people in TNS are active in philosophy, but they tend to look down their noses at Objectivism, which disappoints me. They hold the same opinions of Objectivism, and believe the same modern-philosophy drivel, as most academics. I suppose that is to be expected. I find that the other members are most interesting when they are writing about more concrete disciplines such as physics, mathematics, or neuroscience. The least interesting ones are the ones who try to take over the society and get voted out for it (as happened recently). There are a few kooky ideas that get presented from time to time, but I suspect that there are fewer than Mensa (which I skipped over), and the point of having them is only to discuss them, not to force people to accept them. It is permissible to explain why they are wrong -- this street goes both ways, of course. Ayn Rand says not to join the wrong groups or movements in order to "do something." I figure TNS is safe because it doesn't do anything. The IEEE (of which I am also a member) is less safe, because it occasionally intervenes into politics, and I am not sure of the correctness of all its interventions. I did not discover what my IQ really was until after I had graduated from college. I consider that a loss, as the discovery helped me to find some optimism at a difficult point in my life, when I was unemployed and seemingly unable to find a job anywhere. I was thinking that I was worthless. I was glad to find I was wrong, at least in some regard. When I was young I had a difficult time in school. I was always socially ostracized, and the teachers encouraged this; their attitude was "he needs to learn to get along, he needs to learn to be more like normal kids." My IQ was tested, but no one told me the results; it was taboo; I was not supposed to think I was smarter than anyone else. I was always treated differently and I couldn't figure out why, and somehow it was wrong for me to get the right answer even though it was right for anyone else to get it. When I finally discovered how high my IQ really was, in 2002 (I didn't join TNS until later), this finally made sense. My parents were told that I should not be put in the Gifted program, that the people in Gifted were "arrogant." What the teachers did not say, but believed, was: It is "arrogant" to think you are smarter than anyone else. If the facts back up such an assessment, that makes you even more "arrogant." Such facts must be suppressed. A student should not be allowed to show off his high test scores to other students. It is not fair that some kids should be smarter than others. After all, high IQs are a myth anyway; they don't exist. High IQ people should not be allowed to get ahead; they should be punished. The trouble actually started when I changed schools. The teachers and administrators at the new school obviously had a whole different philosophy of what was acceptable student behavior. I had done just fine at the old school, but the old school had allowed me to get ahead a little. At the new school, they were teaching that with two minus three, you can't subtract, and, after raising my hand and being called on, I said, "You can too, it's minus one!" and that got me into trouble. Defiance of authority, I guess. The teacher marked a whole bunch of my perfectly correct answers wrong, publicly, to humiliate me. I would change schools a few more times. I had to take the same math four years in a row. I mastered rational arithmetic in the fourth grade, and the next move was algebra, but I was made to wait until eighth grade like everyone else, in the meantime doing the same thing over and over. My seventh-grade math teacher gave a pre-test on the first day of school. I got a 57 out of 60 (raw score), the next highest score was in the 30s. That got me into MathCounts. Luckily for me, after that, my parents finally decided to ignore the charges of "arrogance" and put me in a magnet school, where I actually won Mu Alpha Theta math contests (I would never have imagined that there was such a thing as a math contest, as if math were a sport! I won quite a few trophies), and I graduated from high school with two Advanced Placement math credits (and several others in other subjects). But I think I could have done a whole lot better if I had been allowed to learn at my own pace instead of being punished for my abilities. Even at the magnet school, my grades were "bipolar" because I would get bored in class and stop paying attention and miss important things. (In some classes I would sit there reading the textbook, and I actually had a professor in college get offended by that behavior.) I didn't fail completely; sometimes I could be massively productive, especially when I could rely on the textbook. Also, I faced constant social ostracism. There was a lot less ostracism at the magnet school, but it still existed, and I was hyper-sensitive to it. I suspect it is because I started to be treated badly at such a young age, just when I was supposed to be learning to socialize. I was not able to afford anything but state college, and my bipolar grades disqualified me from most scholarships. I got my degree, but now I find myself bored at work, not qualified for the jobs I really wish I could do. I admit that sometimes I am too bored to study what I should be doing. Sometimes, though, I knock things off my to-do list so quickly I amaze people. I am a programmer. I am an outcast among programmers. I have written my own Scheme implementation, but I am sometimes castigated for writing code that is too hard for people to understand. (No, I am not using call-with-current-continuation at work. I wish I could, though; I wish it were that kind of job. Not that there are very many of that kind.) I still face ostracism. Sometimes people regard me with envy and disgust; they think that I have wasted my intelligence and that they could have done much better, but their mistake in this is that they imagine they could have my intelligence while still keeping their social lives. I am aware that lots of intelligent people have normal social lives. I suspect they went to schools that were more accepting of intelligence and even fostered and encouraged it. None of them seem to have gone to public schools in the South. I did not have their good fortune, and though my parents encouraged me to develop my mind, they did not know how to find others who could teach me, and they did not have money. I do not think of myself as "arrogant." I have a high IQ, but there is a big difference between intelligence and knowledge. I frequently find myself starved for information that is not in books, or information that is in books I've never heard of. It took me 10 years to figure out how to implement Scheme. I had to learn how on my own. I don't know anybody else who knows much of anything about it, and I couldn't find books that told me what I needed to know. (I did find one or two, eventually.) I do put my IQ on resumes, but at the bottom of page two. I don't mention TNS because I am not active in it and because I don't want there to be any assumption that I agree with the various views of its members. Sometimes I hope people will see the IQ point and surmise the entire above story, but instead they tend to draw their own conclusions. Almost as bad as people who think IQ itself is a sign of arrogance, are the people who expect me to be able to work miracles. Sigh... [Edit: miscalculated how many years it took me to learn how to implement Scheme... how typical of me...]
  20. John Galt spent years looking for it. He crossed oceans, and he crossed deserts, and he went down into forgotten mines, miles under the earth. But he found it on the top of a mountain. It took him ten years to climb that mountain. It broke every bone in his body, it tore the skin off his hands, it made him lose his home, his name, his love. But he climbed it. He found the fountain of youth, which he wanted to bring down to men. Only he never came back -- because he found that it couldn't be brought down. [Atlas Shrugged, Chapter VII]
  21. Actually, if the black hole were large enough, spaghettification wouldn't occur until well after you have passed the event horizon. Passing the event horizon would not seem to be anything special. Outside the event horizon, a black hole has a "photon sphere" where light orbits the black hole. If you were in the photon sphere, with the black hole below, and you looked directly ahead, your line of sight would go clear around the black hole, and you'd see the back of your own space helmet. As far as I can tell, you would be surrounded by an inside-out funhouse-mirror image of yourself. Below, you would see only blackness. (If the black hole is very large, you might still not be able to see yourself. Your image would be a thousand miles away and only as tall as you. It would be a very thin line at the horizon.) Once you are inside the photon sphere, you'd have to look up at a higher and higher angle just to see outside of the black hole. So imagine being surrounded by a funhouse image of yourself, suspended over blackness, and seeing a circle above you with the entire universe inside. It would be very bright close to the "horizon" because at that angle your line of sight spirals around the black hole many times on its way out. All the light from around the black hole would be gathered into a small region of arc. If you looked straight up you would see straight out. It would be darker. The image of the universe would repeat inside the circle, with more and brighter repetitions closer to the edge. As you fell into the hole, the funhouse image of yourself would get closer, and closer. The horizon would get higher up, smaller, and brighter. Maybe the curvature of space would reach a point where you could touch your funhouse image self and feel yourself touching yourself. You are effectively reaching around the black hole! But this image of you would keep getting closer. Eventually the "image" would crush you; you'd be crushed against yourself. That of course assumes you're going in alone. This crushing power would encourage things to stretch out vertically. Your subatomic particles would probably slide above or below each other, but eventually each one would each be crushed against an image of itself.
  22. Forgive this rant, but I don't like the way the whole Net Neutrality issue is being framed, either by its supporters or by its detractors, and I have to say something. I was very frustrated when I found myself having to wait a really long time to download NIN's The Slip -- legally, with the permission of NIN -- using BitTorrent on Comcast. The download did eventually succeed. It was the first time I had used BitTorrent in a year or so; the time before that was to download Fedora Core 6, and that download was not throttled. I don't use BitTorrent to steal. I don't think it's right that I get "punished" for the crimes of others. I don't think it's right that there is a presumption of guilt regarding the use of BitTorrent. Someone (in industry or government) apparently does think it's right. I do not think Comcast is at fault for this. I think the government is at fault -- by allowing a few entertainment companies to bully the ISPs into doing things that ought to be illegal. Indirectly, the government is doing it, simply by allowing it to be done. I don't think the ISPs should be monitoring all my traffic just so they can see whether I am pirating or not (or what sites I am accessing or what protocols I am using). The ISP should not be able to monitor my traffic at all, without a court order -- and they shouldn't have to. If I pirate stuff, the liability is mine, not theirs. Should the phone company listen in to all my calls? After all, the phone system is the phone company's property! What if I'm playing copyrighted CDs over the phone to people? Or making threats? Maybe the phone company should be liable for damages. If they fail to listen in, they're apparently supporting that sort of activity. (That's the kind of theory that supports ISP monitoring.) Do I have the right, when I enter into a contract with an ISP, to see that they hold up their end? Or do their property rights allow them to break the contract without consequence? Do I have any implied rights when I enter into such a contract, such as the right not to have my data searched without a warrant, or the right to know what the rules are before I am accused of breaking them, or the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, or the right to confront my accusers, or the right to compel testimony in my defense? Or do their "property rights" (and the property rights of a few entertainment companies) trump all that? (If the contract states out in the open that you are waiving such a right, then there it is, but otherwise, the assumption should be that they are not waived.) Net neutrality opponents seem to say, no, you have no rights regarding the Internet at all; you are subject to the whims of those in charge, whether they be the ISPs or a few entertainment companies. Net neutrality advocates aren't asking the right questions. They think the problem can be cured by more statism, but with the guns pointed the other way. Net Neutrality is just like that electrical "deregulation" in California that preceded the Enron collapse. There were hundreds of pages of regulations governing the newly "deregulated" electrical grid. Those regulations created problems in California that year, and Enron ended up getting blamed for them. What's needed is real deregulation and a return to individual rights. The entertainment companies have rights. Comcast has rights. Comcast's customers have rights. [The above was written in the heat of the moment, as it were, and may have gaps. I revised it a couple of times to try to clarify things.]
  23. There's an enormous difference between greed for the earned and greed for the unearned. Calling them both "greed" and then trying to draw conclusions about that "greed" is only going to lead to problems.
  24. I think there are two reasons. One reason is a failure to understand the philosophy. Some people read a lot about Objectivism, but don't read enough to know how the whole philosophy fits together. So they call themselves Objectivists while filling in the gaps in their understanding with parts of other philosophies. Later they find that it doesn't fit together after all. (I bet this sort of misunderstanding was a lot more common before OPAR made it possible to see the whole philosophy laid out hierarchically in a single book.) The other reason some people give up Objectivism is that being an Objectivist can be pretty lonely, and some people cannot stand that. I am pretty lonely -- but I have been a lonely type of person ever since childhood, long before I discovered Objectivism, so I know that Objectivism is not the cause. I also know that giving up Objectivism would not help. I don't think laziness is a factor. Objectivism doesn't require you to do anything except live through the honest use of your mind. In particular, Objectivism does not require its adherents to be activists. I also am not sure that being demoralized is a factor. Sure, the country is going lemming-like off the cliff, and probably dragging us along with it. But how will giving up Objectivism help that?
  25. necrovore

    Copied DVD's

    I tell you what I'd do, I'd toss the burned DVDs into the fireplace and light it up. Or break them into a million pieces and throw them away. What is your mother going to do, call the cops on you? The important thing to remember about copyright is that it is the means by which the producers of creative works get paid for producing the stuff. If you want people to continue to make movies, you want them to get paid. Freeloading deprives them of income. There is no free lunch; while you are getting something for nothing, the producers are stuck in the situation of receiving nothing for what they have produced. It is not fair to them, and it does not help them stay in business. (I do not agree with every arbitrary means of enforcing copyright, but that's a different subject.) Some people complain about the fact that they have to pay before they get to see for themselves how good the movie is. This is true, but it is offset by the fact that movies are sold by word of mouth, and it is not a copyright violation to tell people what you thought of the film and why. You can reward or punish the producers of a movie you like or hate by telling all your friends to see it or avoid it.
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