Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Oct 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, RIP

I was shocked when I saw the news about the death of Steve Jobs. My iPod is one of my most beloved possessions. Even though it's a simple thing, it has changed my life for the better.

So, I'd just like to take this moment to say thank you to Mr. Jobs for all his hard work. I hope it made him as happy as it made me, only, you know, about a million times magnified.

Sep 26, 2011

13 Lbs.

So, from my earlier total of 379 lbs, today I'm down to 366. No kidding. Not exactly the speediest weight loss ever, but not bad, either. I'm not hungry, but I wouldn't say I have tons of energy--I've been sleeping a lot the past few days. A LOT. 12-14 hours a day. I've tried getting up after 8 or 10 hours, but I'm tired and cranky and I feel stressed for the entire rest of the day.

I think what's causing it is that over the past few days I've been getting most of my calories from protein (specifically, meat) instead of fat. On the days when I eat more fat and less protein, I have better energy. So today I'm not having any meat. For breakfast I had a big mug of tea and cream. I've kind of skipped lunch since I slept until 2, and for dinner I'm having avocado salad with almonds and some provolone slices. It was originally going to be guacamole, but I put the tomatoes in before I mushed the avocado (I wasn't paying attention) so I just mixed it around a bit instead of smashing it into goo. It still tastes good. I also discovered, rather amusingly, that I had 3 containers half-full of sour cream in the fridge. If I only use half the container, it doesn't register on me, so I just buy a new container instead of using what I already have. I prefer making my guacamole with sour cream instead of cream cheese. I like the texture and the more acid flavor better. I'm sure most people don't make it with either, but eh, whatever, bite me. This is how I make it.

My no-soap (well, sort of) project is going really well. I don't use any soap or body wash on my skin at all. The only thing I use is some Tom's Natural Deodorant (it's not an antiperspirant, just a deodorant), which works quite well and doesn't irritate my skin (much), so my pits look more like skin and less like the surface of the moon. It doesn't last as long as an antiperspirant, but it works well enough. (Yeah, I'm sure everybody wants to hear all about my pits. Whatever. Bite me.) The skin on my face (er, and my butt, but I won't go into that) is where I've seen the biggest difference--it feels MUCH softer and I have no need for moisturizer. If I take a hot shower, it'll still feel a bit dry/tight immediately afterward, but it goes away very quickly. I also don't seem to need to exfoliate--except on my feet, but that's more of a result of my refusal to wear shoes unless I absolutely have to. If my skin feels a little dry, I'll use some olive oil in the shower and it goes right away.

My hair was giving me grief for the longest time, though, as I could NOT get it to stop feeling greasy, which was sad because it was lovely and glossy and healthy, you just couldn't touch it because it was nasty-feeling. However, I've started using Kirk's Castille Soap on it every 3-4 days, and the greasy feeling is gone, while still leaving all the nice benefits of no shampoo. I have no need to use conditioner, my scalp doesn't itch, it's all good. The funny part is that I've found if I soap my ears really well my hair takes longer to start feeling greasy again. Apparently my *ears* produce massive amounts of oil, enough that removing it with soap is beneficial.

I probably would continue this even if it didn't improve matters, because why pay money for products that basically don't do anything but make bubbles. However, since I have seen improvements I don't see any reason to go back to using body wash/shampoo.

Sep 20, 2011

Tits and Ass

Something that has bugged me for a long time, but in a somewhat inarticulate way, is women (and men) complaining about various artistic portrayals of women being "hyper-sexualized" or "objectified", particularly in video games, comic books, the media, whatever, as if this is an assault on "regular" women. An assault perpetrated by men for the purpose of hurting women.

My problem with this, I've come to realize, is that it's just ignoring way too much context. Are these portrayals of women exaggerated? Yes. But so are the portrayals of men in the same media. I don't know a lot of men who view the impossibly-ripped superhero as an assault on their self-esteem.

I think it has more to do with how men and women view physical attractiveness. Most of the men I know view it as something you build--which is true, if you want to get ripped, you go to the gym, you work out, you eat right, and you develop a nice muscular build. So if they don't have one, they don't view it as some hopeless endeavor, it's just that they're not that interested in it. They do other things with their time, and get their self-esteem from those things.

For women, though, having a perfect body/face/skin/hair seems a lot more of a genetic thing, so no matter how much effort you invest, you can only do so much. Even cosmetic surgery can only go so far. They are defeated before they begin. A *hopeless* ideal does not inspire self-esteem. It inspires self-loathing.

It's just another example of the destructive effects of irrational perfectionism.

Sep 13, 2011

Lead me into Temptation

So, today I thought about having some chocolate. Then I decided not to. I wasn't really craving chocolate, it was just that before when I've been feeling a bit ill like I did today, chocolate helped. The caffeine, sugar, fat, and seretonin effects really do make me feel better.

The trouble was, it didn't seem worth it. I have to eat a LOT of chocolate for it to have a noticeable effect (practically OD on the stuff), and I didn't want to go off my diet because I've been having several really good effects from the low-carb, high-fat method I've adopted. I'm losing weight (370.6 today at my Official Weighing) and about 75% of my joint pain/stiffness has just vanished. Gone. Kaput. I can sit (or stand, or lie down) in one position and I don't swell like a balloon and wind up so stiff I can barely move.

I don't want that to go away. At all. It's taken me a little over 10 days of consistent 100% attendance to the best diet practices I've been able to discover to attain that. I do NOT want to start over again at day one. Not even for chocolate.

So it's not at all difficult for me to decide to avoid the stuff I know will throw me off. And the longer I go, the less I want to get reset back to day one. At last, a trait I can use to help me instead of hinder me. Once I've sunk a certain amount of effort into something, I don't want to go back and start over no matter how beneficial it might be.

Sep 11, 2011

Mad Science!

So, I decided to experiment a little with making a LCHF (low carb high fat) dessert. It did not go so well.

First I made a crumble crust for a pie. Only instead of using graham crackers, I used flaxseed meal and chopped almonds held together with butter. This was the only really successful part of the pie, and it tasted great. I think I needed to chop the almonds a bit more thoroughly, though, as the larger chunks had a tendency to fall out of the crust. But it certainly held together as well as any graham cracker crust I've ever made.

Then I made custard for pie filling. This went okay. I used egg yolks and cream with stevia and lemon extract to make the custard. Next time I'm going to use more cream and fewer egg yolks. I think I may just go ahead and use a little sugar or honey, too, as the Stevia tastes kind of salty to me after it's been baked. It just doesn't have any real sweetness to it. Also the lemon extract was a bust--it could not be tasted in the final product AT ALL. Next time I'm using lemon juice and lemon zest instead. (I was planning on using it this time, unfortunately I forgot to get an actual lemon on my way out of the store.)

Then I tried to make meringue using the egg whites. This was laughably bad. Apparently you HAVE to use SUGAR to make a proper meringue. Also it was hot and humid in the kitchen so the stuff just would NOT set. I gave it my best shot but I think I'm just not going to bother with this next time. The custard is plenty indulgent without any meringue, and I can use the egg whites to make egg drop soup or something.

Also, as a note, if you've never made meringue before, it makes about 10 times the volume (or more) than you had of egg whites. Useful to know so you don't end up overflowing your bowl.

Overall, not the best dessert I've ever made, but it was really low in carbs, for sure. And dinner (oven-roasted chicken drumsticks and creamed spinach) was good.

Also, it was the first time in three years that I used that eggbeater.

Sep 7, 2011


First, click on this link.

See that red text across the top? Doesn't that sound ominous? Really sounds like Turbine is screwing someone over, eh?

Except that having all classes for free is NOT part of the VIP agreement. In fact, one of the classes in DDO (Favored Soul) is ALREADY buy only (or it can be earned with favor). Artificer uses precisely the same model--you can buy it, or you can earn it with favor. It's my understanding that during the shakedown period while the new update gets implemented, it may *temporarily* be impossible to get it just with favor. Whoop-te-doo. Every update takes a while to get fully set up. Why? 'Cause it's friggin' complicated, is why.

I'm not hugely in favor of grandstanding even when your grievance is legitimate. THIS is just DUMB.

Sep 4, 2011

That Is . . . Large

So, my mom got me a scale for my birthday (which is next month, but never mind) so I can have some help in my dieting. It arrived today. It is a nice scale. I really like it. Except it appears to be broken, because when I stand on it it says 391 lbs.

Faith and begorrah. That is way more Jennifer than anyone could possibly want.

No WONDER my ankles hurt.

Addendum: Actually, my joke about the scale being "broken" was quasi-accurate. It got stuck somehow and I had to take the batteries out and turn them around and whack them a few times before it would zero. So the actual number is 379 lbs. Wow, I feel SOOOOO much better.

Not. Bleh.

Sep 2, 2011


I stumbled upon this game:

It's a memory game, fair enough, and I played it for a few minutes. The thing I found really odd about it was that when I just looked at the images, I had about a 50% success rate. Not particularly noteworthy. When I NAMED the images in my mind (even if it was the most basic description of "man with dog"), my success rate INSTANTLY jumped to 100%.

Yeah. Verbal. That's me.

Sep 1, 2011


So, our bathroom is kind of exploded at the moment. Fortunately we have a spare.

Aug 24, 2011


Well, thus far the diet is going well, meaning that I'm still on it. I feel that I've lost some weight (still no scale, so I'm not sure), but my various ailments are much reduced. I was taking vitamins daily for a while, but I've stopped because they were making me sick to my stomach. I don't seem to digest solid vitamin pills well and after a few days of taking them I get all kinds of unpleasant digestive symptoms.

I've been reading Tom Naughton's Fat Head blog and watching his various videos. from the "Fat Head" movie (which you can watch free on Hulu) to "Science for Smart People" (which you can watch free on YouTube) and "Big Fat Fiasco" (which you can watch free on YouTube). I find these to be both amusing and (somewhat) informative. I'm not sure how much science there is behind the explanation of how insulin resistance causes you to get fat, though. It sounds sensible, but so does the lipid hypothesis, you know.

However, that being said, the biggest recent change I've noticed is that I now get hungry in a reasonable sort of way (and I want reasonable amounts of food). Today I had some beef liver pate and celery sticks for lunch, and now I'm hungry and making chili (no beans) for dinner. I was hungry around 5pm and it's almost 10 now. If I'd gotten hungry around 5 before, by 10 I would be an absolute wreck, shaky, feeling half-frozen, possibly even passed out in bed. I feel fine. I'm not tired, (I am hungry), but I don't feel wasted and shaky.

So that's good, at least. I'm going to track down a scale so I can weigh myself. It's been approx. 2 months since I started so I figure the water weight loss has mostly ceased and now I can actually get an idea of how much I weigh and what/if I'm losing.

Aug 2, 2011

Really? Really?!

I saw what has got to be the dumbest commercial ever to exist last night. Well, okay, maybe not, but still. It was a spot advertising MSNBC, which apparently is some sort of leftist propaganda channel or show (not sure about that, but I caught less than a minute of it and they used the term "plutocrat" to describe wealthy Republicans THREE TIMES. IN LESS THAN A MINUTE.). Anyway, this advertising spot consisted of a woman standing in a canyon with a rather large bridge behind her. She said, self-righteously, that "we need government leadership because there aren't enough profits out there for any private enterprise to build something like this on spec".

Um, what?

There's just so much wrong with that idea that I decided to make a list. Note that this doesn't even *approach* being a comprehensive list.

1. Enormous things get built by private enterprise all the time. On spec. Even with our enormous bloated government draining the economy. So money is not the problem.
2. If there is money to be made but not enough for your grandiose bridge project, private enterprise will come up with SOME kind of solution. Maybe not as scenic.
3. The government (via tons of building and environmental regulations, among other things) is generally the force *preventing* huge undertakings from going forward. See: nuclear power or gas pipelines or oil drilling. So looking to government "leadership" probably means that you didn't want that bridge built in the first place.
4. Said government "leadership" has no incentive to provide infrastructure that is actually well-designed and well-placed. As such it is generally inefficient and wastes most of the money it uses.
5. Government money is taken by force from the very people you claim can't make enough profits to do this on their own. Huh, I wonder if a crushing tax burden coupled with rising inflation has anything to do with that.


Aug 1, 2011

But I Don't Believe That!

Here's something I'm never going to understand:

Radical members of X group expressly believe some outrageous bit of stupidity, like that video games are "corrupting youth" or that having sex is somehow "sinful" or that non-believers ought to be viciously murdered or that humans are "destroying the planet" or whatever. Then, when some better person says "you X's are idiots for believing this bit of outrageous stupidity" some marginally-less-radical X comes along and says "I'm an X, and I don't believe that, therefore X is perfectly fine!"


The correct interpretation of the statement "I'm an X, and I don't believe that!" is not "X is perfectly fine!" it is "But I self-identify with X regardless of the fact that I don't actually believe in X thus granting sanction to the outrageous bit of stupidity and encouraging the people who do believe it".

Bottom line: if you disagree with the actual tenets of a belief system, don't identify yourself as a follower of that belief system. If you go ahead and call yourself an X anyway, guess what, you *deserve* to be tarred with the same brush. Heck, you're WORSE than the radicals--they at least have the courage of their convictions. Or the courage to HAVE convictions. YOU are a disgraceful milquetoast hypocrite parlor pink.


Jul 25, 2011

Captain America

So, first let me start out by saying that if you like superhero movies, you'll probably really enjoy Captain America. By most standards it appears to be a really good movie. I just had a terrible time getting into it, myself.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, I did, but the progress of the story all felt extremely wooden to me, kind of like watching Saturday Morning Cartoons where everything is telegraphed a little too much so the (presumably younger) audience can follow along. The camera just dwells way too long on things in order to let you know they're Important, and much of the dialog is delivered in a way that makes it feel too pat.

This is probably just a personal thing, but I found it irksome enough that I didn't enjoy the movie thoroughly.

Jul 23, 2011


Adam and I watched this movie last night, and I have to say the movie I'm most strongly reminded of is No Country for Old Men. Not because they have any superficial qualities in common, but they share a self-sabotaging sort of ending that purposefully and maliciously destroys the theme of the movie and replaces it with something rather vile.

Oh, just as a quick aside before I get started pulling this thing to bits: from the trailers I honest-to-goodness thought Bradley Cooper was Jake Gyllenhaal. Now that I look them up, they don't look all that similar, but good grief how many brown-haired scruffy youngish men are there hanging about in Hollywood? Do they all have to have the same haircut? Sheesh.

The general plot of this movie at the start is not too original (more, unusual, as in you don't see it quite as often). Cooper plays Edward Morra, a down-at-the heels would-be writer who is too depressed and out-of-focus to produce anything. He is, essentially, the most stereotypical of stereotypical smart-ish loser types. Heck, I'm one myself. He lives in a crappy apartment, he's divorced, his girlfriend left him, it's all pretty pathetic.

The character/situation development is rather undercut by this whole part of the story being narrated, by the way, and the movie begins with a flash-forward scene informing you, in no uncertain terms, that Something Bad Is Going To Happen. Even the trailers weren't too coy about the basic premise of Limitless. As a result, I spent most of the movie waiting for the surprise. That's just the problem though--there isn't one.

Limitless doesn't only lack surprise, it lacks any conflict whatsoever. Time and time again, you think some sort of conflict is going to develop--Morra is going to be forced to question what he's doing and where he's going--something is going to happen. And it never does. Terrible things occur as a result of this miracle drug that turns Morra into a super-genius. Many people die, some of them at Morra's hands. Yet what happpens in the end? He outsmarts everyone and gets away free.

This is, essentially, a story of someone who magically wins the "lottery of life". At the beginning of the movie, anyone who is struggling in their life can certainly identify with Morra's situation. Yet by the end that identification and meaning are completely stripped out. I'm not a super-genius with all the money in the world and the solutions to everything. Why the heck would I root for someone who is just because he is?

The problem is that Morra never displays any *moral* characteristics. He doesn't decide to "do good" with his newfound superpowers. He doesn't decide to bring the drug to the world (even though it's revealed by the end that he's figured out how to "beat" the horrendous side effects). At the end, he's running for president, but goodness knows what kind of policies a characterless non-entity would decide to implement. It is the ultimate in Naturalist movie-making, just a series of randomish events that don't add up to anything other than, hey, I got lucky and got a hold of a big pile of money and killed some people and drank a guy's blood and whoop, I totally got away with it! Awesome!

While that might be a fun wish-fulfillment fantasy for some, it's not a story that means anything. It reminds me of the sentiment in Terry Pratchett's novel Hat Full of Sky: "In any story worth the telling, the third wish is the one that puts everything back the way it was." It is not wishing or luck or miracle drugs that get you ahead in life.

By presenting intelligence in this light--as an amoral faculty of luck and deceit--what Limitless really conveys is a profound hatred of the intellect. But this isn't the misguided yet honest hatred of a man of limited intelligence who is suspicious or envious of something he cannot have. This is a form of what Ayn Rand called "hatred of the good for being the good"--a wish, not to seize a value, but for it to cease to exist. It is a parade of anti-intellectualism wearing the trappings of the intellect, all the worse for its sheer banality.

Fortunately, due to its banality it is likely to disappear without even a ripple. At least, one can hope.

Jul 22, 2011

Carbs: I Need Dem

So, in the third week of doing Paleo here, and I've started adding some "non-toxic" carbs back into my diet out of desperation, because I basically turned into a zombie there for a while. I could not stay awake. Well, I could, but I was sad, weepy. All the time. And I couldn't focus. It took me (literally) 45 minutes to put on a pair of pants yesterday. Finally, I had some ice cream.

Boom, fixed.

I waited up to make sure it hadn't just spiked my blood sugar and sent me into a sugar high, but I didn't have any sugar high symptoms, I merely felt "normal" for the first time in days. I could pay attention, I wanted to do stuff, I felt normally tired at the normal time. So I'm going to start eating some potatoes and whatever else I find I tolerate well (excepting grains/legumes for the time being). And I won't worry about adding a small spoonful of sugar to my tea.

I don't think I've ever really been hyperglycemic. I've had my blood sugar tested immediately after eating a large, carb-filled meal and my blood sugar was NORMAL. I suspect, but do not know, that I may be generally HYPOglycemic. It'd be nice to have an actual professional I could ask about this, but I've ALWAYS had low blood sugar in the mornings (part of why it's so painful for me to haul myself out of bed). My average body temp is lowish--97.9 instead of 98.6.

I don't want to go crazy and start diagnosing myself with everything under the sun. I don't have *most* of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, just incredibly sluggish tiredness. I don't get lightheaded or pass out, but I will feel really weak and shaky if I've gone a while without food. While I suspect some of this might be the result of my former habit of loading up on carbs and sugary foods, over the past few weeks I've definitely learned that the tiredness is NOT an effect of that. I NEED some carbohydrates for fuel so I don't turn into a zombie.

Jul 14, 2011


So, I did something today for the first time ever: I made an omelet. I've never made an omelet before, I could never get them to turn out. They always wound up as scrambled eggs. But this time I got my non-stick pan nice and hot, melted a knob of butter in it, and just poured enough eggs in to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Add a little cheese, and you've got a lovely decadent paleo omelet. Yum yum yum.

I also saw some Dagoba unsweetened drinking chocolate at the store, so I got some coconut milk, added just a little Stevia, and voila, omelet with hot chocolate for dinner.

It's so nice, because I was feeling really down in the dumps today, and this cured it.

Jul 12, 2011


(As always, click the post title to go check out the Official Movie Site).

So, I watched Faster a while ago with Adam, and I have to say, the movie really surprised me. It's not even close to what I guessed it might be about. I was expecting some kind of fast-driving crime-glorifying (or at least outlaw-glorifying) action movie, but that's not what Faster is at all. It's a movie about people making horrible decisions and then trying to move on in some fashion. Yet, ultimately, they can't escape the rippling negative consequences of their decisions.

In Faster, Dwayne Johnson plays the victim of a bank job gone horribly wrong when another gang interfered. They tortured him and his brother for information, then killed his brother and nearly killed him by shooting him in the back of the head. He winds up in jail for ten years, and immediately upon release goes after the other gang for revenge, killing them one after another.

One of the things I like a lot about this movie is that it makes excellent use of the principle of Chekov's Gun--even seemingly insignificant details like the main character having a metal plate holding his skull together have their part to play in the story. I also like that revenge itself is not glorified, either, it is shown as a horrific act that, even given extreme provocation, Johnson's character has to force himself to carry out in some cases.

Most of the characters in the movie don't have names, a stylistic choice that I think works well. There's no glitz to this movie at all, no glamor, it is a straight-out tale told in the sparest way possible, a morality play of sorts. However, there's no real message here other than that actions have consequences, so it doesn't come across as some sort of syrupy public-service "take your vitamins" message film.

I think my favorite scene is about 2/3 of the way through the movie, after Driver (the only moniker given for Johnson's character) has killed a bouncer at a nightclub. The bouncer instructed Driver to call the bouncer's son on his cell phone and explain what happened. Driver does this, and then the son vows to undertake his own revenge. Driver doesn't apologize or try to make excuses, he simply says "you do what you have to do".

This declaration that the revenge is not some consequence-less act really brings home the movie for me. It strips things down to their naked essence--that this movie reviles evil as such, even when it's the "protagonist" doing the evil things. Driver is not a fully sympathetic character as a result. What he's doing *is* evil. However, he's not shown in the light of a helpless victim, either. *Everyone* in the movie chose to do what they did, and suffered for it when they chose badly.

So, despite its focus on crime, murder, and revenge, Faster is actually a benevolent movie, because it focuses on what ultimately *also* allows people to live good lives: free choice.

Jul 11, 2011

Here We Go Again

So, after determining that I've sunk about as low as I can go emotionally and physically, I've had enough. First step is to get out of this stupid funk I'm in. So I decided a dietary change and exercise routine were of primary importance to getting my life back on track.

With Adam's (sort of) blessing, I've gone onto a paleo diet again. (He doesn't care what I eat or cook as long as he gets fed something he's willing to eat when he wants it, apparently.) Well, paleo-ish. I've cut grains, sugar, beans completely out of my diet. I've been eating a little fruit (berries) with some cream and a little stevia for sweetening as something dessert-like. The first couple of days were kind of nasty--I could barely keep my eyes open, and if I wasn't constantly engaged I'd find myself dozing off. However, the near-constant heartburn/sour stomach I'd been experiencing for the past few months was just GONE. Completely. Instantly. I'm over the dozies (yay!) and no return of stomach pains/heartburn.

The swelling in my feet has gone down a bit (not completely, but what do you expect?) and my ankles are still a BIT sore, but not too bad. I expect this will gradually improve with consistent diet and exercise.

Today, I decided to start my exercise program with the GoFit kettlebell/dvd I got. It's a 7 lb kettlebell (the smallest they had, and it's lovely girly magenta just to bring home the point). The workout is 25 minutes. I made it through eight. EIGHT. And no way could I do most of the exercises. The reverse lunges were completely beyond me, my ankles just wouldn't bend enough without screaming pain.

So, looks like I have a nice new very specific exercise goal: finish the video! Properly!

By the way, I love this video (even though I couldn't do most of it). The instructor (Jessica Huthmaker) is very relaxed and low-key, no shouting at you, and she says repeatedly "If you're having trouble, do X instead" and "do as many as you can" and "If you need a break, go on and take one" which is precisely the sort of encouragement someone like me needs. I don't really feel bad for not finishing the video (I feel bad for being as out-of-shape as I am), I was certainly soaked in sweat and my heart was pounding, so it wasn't like I did NOTHING. And I want to go back and try it again soon, i.e. Wednesday.

I am going to make it a point to stretch my ankles out REALLY WELL first, though.

May 18, 2011

A Ban I'm Actually In Favor Of

Apparently (link is in the post title, as always), a measure to ban circumcision of minors (under 18, that is) is going on the ballot in San Francisco--with NO religious exemptions. Bravo. This is a ban I'd actually be in favor of. Circumcision is something that an individual needs to choose for themselves, not have forced on them by their parents in the name of hygiene or by their religious leaders or parents for some (heh) cockamamie "reason".

Now, if they want to decide that the age of consent for circumcision doesn't have to be 18 (16-year-olds can drive, after all) dandy. But NOBODY should be mutilating children for ANY reason, I don't care WHAT their religion says. This does not constitute a violation of a person's right to practice their religion. It just constitutes a limit on their nonexistant "right" to practice that religion ON OTHER PEOPLE who are not capable of giving their consent.

If the defenders of this proposed statute go about it in the right way, this could really constitute a landmark case for setting down, once again, what rights people actually have. Congress shall make no law establishing any religion--this doesn't say anywhere that Congress shall not make laws forbidding certain religious practices that may violate somebody's rights.

And Lo, the Swaggering Bully Returns

Via the Drudge Report, I read the short article linked to the post title. Honestly, how absurd can you get? "You taking defensive measures is going to force us to threaten to attack you!!" You might as well say "if you install locks on your doors, I'm going to be forced to break in and steal your stuff! It's your own fault!"

The only appropriate response to this would be "well, if you begin ramping up your ability to bomb us, then we'll just have to ACTUALLY bomb you." Granted, that's a bit juvenile, but what else can you do about this kind of behavior? Just going ahead with what you were doing in the first place as if no threat had been uttered may not be good enough. (It may, so that's definitely the first thing you should do.) I seriously doubt Russia will actually go through with this threat, too, but doubting it doesn't make it so.

I'm glad I'm not responsible for deciding what obnoxious threats, from Russia, from the Middle East, from China or India or Pakistan or North Korea, are actually credible enough that we should just go ahead and bomb them. That is a job for serious men in suits (and yes, sure, women also, I just like the mental image of serious men in suits better--I'm partial to a sharp-dressed man) who aren't reduced to anxious cowering or hysterical overreaction when somebody threatens them.

Too bad that our current government seems to be horribly short on that sort of person.

Apr 22, 2011

MovieBob on Atlas Shrugged: Part One

I think this review by MovieBob over on the Escapist is fantastic, not just because it's a very high-quality review, but also because the presence of said review on a website by, for, and about video gamers is a real demonstration of how much Ayn Rand's ideas are starting to have an effect on the culture.

Apr 21, 2011

The Prospect of Death

Click on the post title to go listen to one of Dr. Peikoff's recent podcast questions. This is actually a question that is familiar to me, and while Dr. Peikoff's response is absolutely correct, it's not very helpful psychologically. While I don't claim to be an expert, I'd like to offer perhaps a little psychologically-oriented advice to the asker of this question, because I've been there. Starting about when I was eleven, I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that, wow, I was going to die. And everything began to seem utterly pointless and futile. The prospect of death looming overhead like some sort of Sword of Damocles (never mind how that death might come about), seemed really terrible to me. I used to lie awake at night and cry because I just couldn't cope with the concept or find any way to deal with it.

However, I did eventually get (mostly) over it, and the prospect of death doesn't really frighten me much any more except in the way Dr. Peikoff discusses, which I take to be a reasonably rational approach to the whole business. So how does one go about getting over such a potentially paralyzing dread?

I think that death seems particularly horrible to young people who are living their lives primarily in the future--they may have many things they want to accomplish or big, nebulous, long-term goals, and there just doesn't seem to be enough time to get there no matter how long they live. In addition, there may be an aspect of finding one's current circumstances nearly unbearable, so that one feels that any goal is, at best, a long-term, far-away thing.

Well, the "cure" is to stop thinking like that and go get involved in something productive NOW. I'm not saying you shouldn't think about the future, but instead of thinking of it in terms of "well, thirty years from now I hope to have accomplished X, Y, and Z", think about it more in terms of "today I'm going to do this one thing that is moving in the right direction". Or several things, so that you can look back at your day and see something that you accomplished rather than dwelling on some impossible future to come. You have to get involved in and enjoy the things you are doing now rather than only dreaming about the results that you may get many years from now. It can be hard when you're young and your life is a big complicated stressful mess that you're struggling to get on top of. But you can do it, and it at least eliminates one source of irrational self-induced stress in the process.

Also, if you're experiencing this kind of fear, it might be a good time to take a look at what you are doing and figure out whether it's actually leading you where you want to go. There are a lot of things that people will shove on you as some kind of self-evident necessity (college, grad school, getting married, having kids, whatever) that may not suit you in any way whatsoever. So don't concentrate on the prospect of death as a way of ignoring what's really bothering you, currently.

Apr 17, 2011

Atlas Shrugged: Part One

This is the first movie I've seen in the theater this year. No joke. And I went to see it on opening day. Those who know me are probably already aware that I'm a big fan of Atlas Shrugged, not just as the equivalent of a "bible" of Objectivism, but because I really enjoy it as a book. So, of course, when they finally made it into a movie, I went and saw it right away. I asked my housemate if he wanted to go with me before I left, and he said, nah. He turned out to be right.

Atlas Shrugged: Part One is a train wreck.

Now, this opinion has nothing to do with the fact that it's not exactly like the book. I expected that the movie wouldn't be like the book. I HATE movies that make substantial effort to be "exactly like the book" as some sort of fanservice because this usually makes them lousy movies. Movies and novels are different art forms. What works in a novel doesn't work in a movie and vice versa. You have to take into account the nature of the medium in order to make a good movie. So I was fully prepared for even major characters to be edited out (or merged), entire plot events bypassed--all sorts of changes. I was even looking forward to them, as something new, exciting, and enjoyable.

What I wasn't expecting was the inept direction, characterization, pacing, and overall just bad moviemaking. From the moment Atlas Shrugged: Part One started to roll, I was shaking my head and rolling my eyes. I'm not talking about the casting. Most of the casting seemed reasonably appropriate and well-done. I can accept that Ellis Wyatt, who was in his mid twenties in the novel now appears to be approaching sixty. The essence of the character was reasonably well preserved.

What I can't accept was the horrible mishandling of any development of suspense or immersion. The lack of immersion is particularly egregious. This is a movie which cannot decide what world it is in. Placing it, time-wise, in 2016 was a major esthetic error from the get-go, one which even semi-competent science fiction authors know not to make. (Heck, Ayn Rand talked about this in The Art of Fiction.) Atlas Shrugged is not about any particular time period, and the effort to root it with mentions of an oil crisis in the Middle East turned it from a story about the philosophical problems of any kind of men in any kind of time into a trite modern political commentary.

From there, it only got worse. A slight miscalculation of this kind could be easily overlooked--it happens just in the first few minutes of the movie, after all. The phrase "Who is John Galt?" is done about as naturally as those radio commercials with two women doing a back-and-forth conversation about their personal problems. I was half expecting that the chosen individual uttering the phrase would turn and wink at the camera. Ayn Rand did such a wonderful job in the novel of making it a throwaway bit of slang that it was rather painful to watch.

Yet, it gets still worse. I feel like I could go on listing major errors forever. All the action (except very, very late in the movie), involves only perfectly coiffed, dressed, and made-up people in expensive clothes sitting in beautiful offices or bars or restaurants and arguing snidely with each other. This is not the way you portray a ferocious struggle with time, materials, and gross malice. Any shots that include actual machinery are completely impersonal, seen from great distance or through glass or via a news story. It is a caricature of Ayn Rand's celebration of people who really do work at the mine face where there are "no lousy jobs, only lousy men unwilling to do them". If I had only seen the movie and I was asked to give the difference between how James Taggart and Hank Rearden conduct their business, at best, all I could say was that James Taggart was a bit of a backstabber. This is not a conflict between a swollen parasite who does nothing but sit at a desk and a brilliant metallurgist who spent ten years sweating in a laboratory to produce a fantastical new product. This is a conflict between TWO men who . . . sit at desks and make snarky comments. All right then.

Then you have Rearden reminding Dagny of his anniversary party. Rearden, whose devotion to business is such that he forgot about said anniversary in the novel--repeatedly. Then you have Rearden hanging affectionately on Lillian at the party, and kissing her forehead. I could keep going in this vein, but I think I've given enough specific examples here.

I can kind of see what the director was trying to do--make the characters more "human" and accessible, doing ordinary sorts of things (like Rearden greeting Dagny cheerfully after the culmination of their roma--argh, okay, okay, I'll stop). But this completely trashes the parts of the movie which ought to be a cashing-in on the chain of established events. When Dagny and Rearden visit the 20th Century Motor Company (and Rearden just EXPLAINS what happened there ARGH ARGH NO I'M STOPPING I'M STOPPING), Dagny proceeds to throw out this line about something being a "stupid altruistic motive" and I seriously wanted to scream. They hadn't established a rationale for altruism being bad! The line completely comes out of nowhere, like those references in comic-book movies to obscure continuity events or characters. The difference being that the comic book movies don't HANG THE MOVIE on the people in the audience picking up on these obscure references and supplying all sorts of preexisting mental context. It is just plain bad. Inept. Unworthy.

Now, if you're a fan of Atlas Shrugged for the political commentary and don't know or care much about the esthetic issues here, you may actually enjoy this movie. (The theater I went to was packed, and people APPLAUDED at the end. ARGH.) There are plenty of one-liners and references in there to make you feel you're among friends and that this is a movie for "your kind of people" and invite you to feel a warm glow of belonging. But if you're actually looking to be drawn into another world, a world of stark conflicts, heroism, love, hate, reason, drama, and romance, you will be seriously disappointed. I certainly was.

And there's still more of this coming, too.

Apr 7, 2011

Pain Scale

This XKCD really hit home with me, because I got a similar reaction from the nurse when I broke and sprained my arm and told them the pain was a "two". I looked up at the pain chart, did a quick estimate based on the smilies, and picked two. I mean, I wasn't grimacing or anything, I could feel it and it was uncomfortable, particularly when I moved . . . sounded like a 2 to me. Mostly I just couldn't use my arm for anything.

Later on when it swelled up I think I would have been around a 5, maaaaaybe a 6: I started having spasms in my arm and it hurt enough that I had to stop and stand still until the spasm passed, I couldn't talk or focus or do ANYTHING while my arm was hurting. But I didn't scream or anything. (Btw, in case anyone REALLY WANTED TO KNOW, my, er, monthly cramps are about this bad, maybe a little bit worse. So yeah, my broken arm? Whatevs. And doctors wonder why I keep flushing the pain meds they've prescribed me after surgery/injuries in the past.)

I think one of the doctor posters on MDOD described what 10 out of 10 pain looks like the best: having your leg amputated with a hacksaw. In my mind, 10 out of 10 pain is what you experience just before you pass out. So I'm not really sure why they even ASK you to rate your pain this way. The doctor should really preface it with "well, you're not passed out or grunting and covered in sweat, so I'm going to say your pain is less than a seven. Why don't you rate it for me on a scale of one to six, seven being the part where you're grunting and sweating from the effort of not screaming." Because when you're at or above a seven, they ain't getting any useful communication out of you and they ought to know that.

Apr 2, 2011

Dr. Hurd on Trump

I stumbled on this article today (click the post title for the link) and actually felt like blogging about it, yay. Anyway, Dr. Hurd's warning against supporting Trump because he seems like someone who can "get things done" really resonates with me because of a lot of fairly recent reading I've been doing. Not only is the (primary) ability to "get things done" not a positive trait for a presidential candidate, it should sound in the mind of any student of history as a strident warning.

Why? Read about the rise of Fascism in Europe prior to World War 2, particularly about Mussolini. Or read about Castro. Or Woodrow Wilson. Or Herbert Hoover. Or any other would-be tyrant that people have inflicted on themselves over the years. Read what people said about them BEFORE they tried putting their policies into practice. What will you discover in common about all of them?

People praised how "dynamic" they were. How charismatic and aggressive and willful. How good they were at putting aside the silly restraints of tradition or the parliament or the stodgy old institutions of yesteryear to get things done.

The best government is one that restricts itself to certain absolutely vital functions of government and leaves the everything else alone. It is a government that contains restraints, traditions, legislative bodies, and, yes, a fair amount of stodginess for a reason. It is a government that operates by the first principle of the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. It is not supposed to swing constantly into dynamic, aggressive, charismatic action on the whims of a single individual, sweeping all opposition aside, because that opposition has rights.

The ability to get things done should be a secondary or tertiary trait of a politician who wants to do the right things. Yes, it'd be nice if such a man wasn't entirely ineffectual, but even if he is and accomplishes absolutely NOTHING during his tenure, by NOT doing the WRONG things, he's still better than 99.9% of the politicians currently in power.

Feb 3, 2011

Now THAT is Beautiful Skin

Click on the post title to go to an article on the Escapist about an amazing new technology for helping people with burns or other skin conditions to heal. As someone who has worked in a tissue bank and knows quite a bit about the horrendously painful and laborious healing process that people with badly damaged skin go through, I had to repost this.

As a capitalist, I say, I HOPE THIS PUTS SKIN BANKS EVERYWHERE OUT OF BUSINESS. And EVERYONE will be better for it. It's not often I get to see a radical new technological solution to a problem I can say this about. It's really a cheering sight.