Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weekend Update

There was no Family Movie Night this weekend because it was jam packed with other fun stuff: school field trip to a pumpkin patch on Friday, then a two-and-a-half hour nap, dinner and bonfire at friends' house Friday night, Objectivist discussion group Saturday morning, another nap, Halloween party Saturday night, sleeping in late this morning, and of course, the grand finale: Trick-or-Treating tonight!

After a year of talking about how she would be either a witch, a ghost, or a monster for Halloween this year, Sammy saw the princess costume at the store and there was no turning back.  I can't really blame her - the dress lights up and everything!  After she decided to be a princess, she insisted that Adam be a prince, which I thought was just about the sweetest thing ever until tonight, when she kept yelling at Adam, "I turned you into a frog!"  Well, it's still pretty sweet.

I decided to stick with scary and go with the witch.  I intended to do the whole green face paint thing but my nose was raw from the sneezy allergies of October, so I had to count on whatever ugliness I have naturally.

I think the last time I really dressed up for Halloween was about 10 years ago when Adam was in law school.  (He dressed as a judge, and I as a prisoner. Ha ha.)  We've enjoyed handing out candy and oooing and ahhing at the kids' costumes since then, and Sam has Trick-or-Treated the past 2 years, but I think we're entering a new era of big-time Halloween revelry that I hope will last at least another decade.

There's candy stuck between my teeth and The Monster Mash stuck in my head. It doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Sam is going through a little potty training regression.  She's had four or five accidents in the past month or so, including one at school this week.

This confirms my claim from last year that what she was having then were NOT accidents.  I don't know why other parents talk about regression and accidents so much, and are so concerned about it.  All the potty training materials warn you about accidents as if they are a horrifying thing that will make you freak out and lose your mind.

But having accidents implies that the child normally uses the bathroom, and that there are exceptions here and there.

Hallelujah for accidents!  I never thought I'd live to see the day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lupus and Lipo

For those of you who are just dying to be updated on my other health quest sagas, here is a quick report.

I'm not going to get liposuction until I'm sure I'm done with pregnancy. Both plastic surgeons I interviewed thought I'd be disappointed if I did it now.  And now that we're going forward with donor egg, there's no time, energy, or money for this project.

I repeated the bloodwork to test for lupus and everything remains negative. Since I found out that my fourth miscarriage was another trisomy, it is less likely that lupus is involved in my fertility issues.  And this means it is less likely overall.  Again, because we're going forward with donor egg, I am limited on what kinds of drugs I can use, so empirical treatment is on hold.  I saw a rheumatologist but she was a terrible doctor.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise so we never even discussed lupus.  I'm not exaggerating - this doctor never even found out what my pain symptoms are.  She had her own agenda and her own questions and she was a complete waste of time.  She ended up ordering an MRI of my right foot because that was the only place on my body she seemed to hear me mention as having pain.  After speaking with my concierge doctor, we agreed that I'd go through with the MRI since it's been a long time since I did this, and it might provide some evidence of psoriatic arthritis (another suspect).  There's not much else we can do while I'm working on getting pregnant anyway.  I just hope that I'll be able to stay on the new NSAID (diclofenac) through the cycling process, and into early pregnancy if we get that far.  After that I might be in a world of hurt.  But I'll deal with that if and when it comes.

Objectivist Round Up

Lynne is hosting this week's Round Up at her lovely blog, 3 Ring Binder.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mexican Jumping Beans

Every time he goes on a business trip, Adam gets Sam a little gift.  He's made a tradition out of keychains because they have city-specific keychains in every airport in America, apparently.  Sam has quite a nice collection.

But sometimes Adam gets her an additional item, and Louisville, Kentucky brought Sam some Mexican jumping beans.

I don't know that I'd ever seen real Mexican jumping beans before.  They really do jump and Sam loves them.  Besides the novelty of it, I think this is a great gift for preschoolers because if you want them to jump in your hand, you have to hold very still.  The larva inside the bean jumps to get away from heat, so normally you keep them in the fridge.  When you take them out, you can hold them in your hand to heat them up and make them start jumping.  But if you move around too much, they don't jump.  It's a nice way to practice being still.

They also do require a tiny bit of care, so if your child is begging for a pet, maybe this is a good first step.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Own Personal Eugenics Program

In just a few days, we've moved from, "we're probably going to move forward with donor egg" to actually starting the process.  I figured out that, because of the timing of our vacations in the upcoming months, it didn't make sense to try to conceive naturally again.  If I miscarried, we wouldn't be able to try donor egg until July or August.  I didn't want to delay that long, so now I've started the meds (ironically, birth control pills) and we're sorting through photos and background information on potential egg-donors. Yikes! Yipee! Holy shit!

When it comes to picking a donor, we benefit from the irrationality of others. Apparently, most people get extremely caught up in the donor-selection process, sometimes shopping around at various egg banks and clinics to find that "perfect match."  Women seem to want to pick a donor who exactly like themselves, or who they think they would like as a friend.  (You would not believe the wealth of information they collect on these donors - audio interviews and written essays and what their favorite animal is and more!)  But I found out today that these women can donate their eggs multiple times, so that some of them have a history.  The case manager assigned to me (I'll call her K. because I have a feeling that I'll be talking about her a lot in the coming months) said that there are superstar donors - women who produce a lot of eggs with no complications.  So, aside from some basic criteria like race and maybe a couple of other things like that, we're going to narrow the field based on the donor's history.  We're going to pick someone with a track record of success.

We're also going to pick someone who is available soon.  Apparently, some donors have a long waiting list.  At least one that K. told me about has ten people on her waiting list.  She can only donate nine times total (each donation is called a "cycle" and during the process the donor is "cycling").  That tenth person put herself on this waiting list and may never get this donor.  Why?  What does she think she's going to get out of it?  I can't imagine the donor's genes being more important than moving quickly and having a good chance of success.  There are plenty of good donors that will work with my schedule.

As for genetic health issues, we have nothing to worry about.  Only 3% of the women who apply get accepted into the donor egg program at my clinic.  They screen for everything imaginable.  It's a much higher quality gene pool than my own, that's for sure.

Still, after those considerations, we probably will make our choice based on the photos more than anything else.  And I have to admit, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that we could have a baby that might look like this one or that one.  It's quite a power trip.

There are other things we'll have to decide - do we do a split cycle (split the donor's eggs with another recipient to save money), pay up front for multiple cycles (at a discount), sign up for the exorbitantly expensive but partially refundable pregnancy guarantee, freeze embryos for future use, etc.  The options are amazing.  We've come a long way since that first test tube baby.

The process is also quite interesting.  It's a major time investment, as well as financial, but it's not nearly as intense as IVF because I don't have to go through both the retrieval and the implantation - just the latter.  I'll be sure to document the whole process here in great detail.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Webcast on Intellectual Property

Here's an exciting announcement from Diana Hsieh of NoodleFood:
I'm delighted to announce a new project that I'm helping to organize: the hosting of live online events (i.e. webcasts) with notable intellectuals and producers about their work. Even better, our first webcast will be law professor Adam Mossoff speaking on questions about intellectual property!

Yes, I find it exciting because my husband is the inaugural lecturer, but I also think the project itself is a great idea.  Here's the proposal for Adam's webcast:
Ayn Rand was the first to recognize that all property is at root intellectual property. The law and history support Rand's view that all property rights, whether in land, factories, consumer goods, securities, or inventions and books, are made possible by innovators who first conceived of these new values. Professor Mossoff will give a brief overview of the evidence supporting Rand's view and answer questions about the theory, history, and law of intellectual property.

Dr. Hsieh is experimenting with the pledge system that she innovated to fund these webcasts.  That means that you make a pledge to pay whatever you think the webcast is worth to you, and if there is enough interest (meaning money), then the project will go forward.  Go to NoodleFood for the details. The webcast is on November 15 and you need to get your pledge in by November 6, so don't delay!

Age-Appropriate TV and Movies

You know all about what kinds of books we're trying to read with Sam. Now I have something to say about TV and movies.  I already wrote a long post about the "how much" issue a year and a half ago, and there I talked about my general principles in selecting TV and movies for Sam.  (Wow, I still agree with everything I said then.  That doesn't always happen when I re-read my old posts!)  What I want to write about this time is simply what kind of TV and movies Sam is ready for now, at four instead of two and a half years old.

When Sam was two and a half, she was not ready for movies.  She could not follow a storyline that long or complex.  Now, she can and does.  I'm not sure when it happened, but I clearly recall a spurt of growth when I could tell that she was finally was able to follow some of her longer books.  This coincided with her readiness for movies.  When Sam was two and a half, she watched Little Bear almost exclusively on TV.  Nothing has changed in that department.  She loves that show to the exclusion of everything else.

I'm open to Sam watching all kinds of TV and movies - even ones with bad ideas or themes, within reason.  It's easier to talk about what I am NOT open to:

  • TV or movies that have fast cuts.  This technique is obviously an attempt to reduce the medium to the perceptual or even sensational level.  I find it particularly offensive in children's cartoons.  Sam is not allowed to watch Phineas and Ferb, which I think sounds pretty funny otherwise, but I only made it through about 3 minutes before we turned it off.

  • TV or movies that are primarily senseless noise and/or meaningless action.  Sam is not allowed to watch Sponge Bob or anything like it.

  • Anything with scenes of violence or visible suffering such as starving children in Africa.  I don't mind a movie that deals with these issues in the abstract (there's that Sound of Music/Nazi thing again), but I don't want her to see it.  I also don't care about "violence" in cartoons much since it doesn't involve real people, but I wouldn't want her watching nothing but The Road Runner either.  This will change slowly with Sam's age.  I think it's fine to see images of violence or suffering as an adult (whereas I don't think fast cuts or senselessness are good at any age), but not at four.  Sam is not allowed to watch Fight Club or Schindlers List.

  • Anything with a heinous theme or no other redeeming values.  When she's older, she can try any movie she wants and form her own opinions, but I'm keeping her away from the worst of the worst for now.

Again, I'm trying to limit Sam's environment to things that she can process.  There are some notable things that I will allow her to watch.  Unlike a year and a half ago, I no longer think Dora the Explorer is inappropriate.  Sam can understand it now.  I'm just glad she has little interest in it since I still think it's a stupid show.  The point is that there is a lot more that Sam can make sense of now, at four, than she could at two.

I'll allow Sam to watch anything with sex in it, including body parts.  I don't mean pornography, just sex scenes and nudity.  (I suppose I wouldn't let her watch porn.  I guess I'm a controlling mom that way.)  There's no reason she'd really be watching anything like this, but it wouldn't bother me if I turned on the TV and there was a sex scene on the screen before I could get Little Bear queued up.  I've actually watched a childbirth show with Sam and she saw the whole process of a baby being born.  There was nudity and it was bloody and the woman screamed in pain (which is different than suffering), and Sam understood exactly what was happening and had no problem dealing with it - and this was over a year ago!

I also don't mind Sam watching "scary" things like children's movies with dragons or witches or what-have-you.  I've found that what I think might be scary to her is quite often dead wrong.  This is the child who fell in love with the Grinch but wanted to fast-forward through the Whos, and who felt more sympathy for the Abominable Snowman than she did for Rudolf.  If a show is too scary, we'll just turn it off.

In my post from last year, I mentioned that I was coming to like Rational Jenn's approach to screen time for her children.  In a nutshell, Jenn doesn't limit their time on the computer or TV at all, but she does only allow them to choose from a huge selection of parent-approved choices.  Contrary to conventional expectations, her children do not sit in front of a screen all day.

I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet when it comes to TV.  Somehow I've managed to raise a four-year-old who still doesn't know how to work the remote.  But Sam just inherited Adam's old computer.  I'm going to leave it up and running right next to my desk and let her have at it as much as she wants and see what happens.  If she can handle that, maybe she can have that freedom with TV, too.  She's due for an expansion of her freedoms.  I can tell because she's becoming defiant again.  But that's another post...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Family Movie Night - Bad Guys

Something dreadful has happened that makes me realize that I have way too much on my mind:  I forgot to mention that we watched The Princess Bride on one of our previous Family Movie Nights.


I have no idea what Sam took away from this movie.  She kept asking us why we were laughing, and I know she hated the end because I cried and she still doesn't understand the good cry yet.  But I do know she was fascinated by the "bad guy" in black with the mask who turned into the "good guy."  If I haven't mentioned it, Sammy is obsessed with good guys and bad guys.  She only wants to watch movies with bad guys in them.  She also likes classical music because it has bad guys in it. (Think about it - half of classical music could be visualized as bad guys chasing princesses through the forest.)

We watched Mary Poppins this weekend.  There was a policeman in the opening scene and Sam was transfixed: "Is that a bad guy?  Does he kill people?"  (She's still confused by the whole Nazi thing.)  No real bad guys in this one, but she seemed to like it anyway.  I didn't remember the movie very well, and I fell asleep for part of it.  Some of the musical numbers were fun, but otherwise I didn't like it.  Wasn't there a speech by the chimney sweep about how selfish the father was?  I was dozing at that point.  But any movie that gets Sammy screaming, "They're dancing on the roof!  Look, mommy!  That's SO funny!" is a hit.

This FMN thing is also a hit.  Sam is just the right age to start watching these movies (as I'll write about in my next post) and it is pure joy to share them with her.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Age-Appropriate Books

A friend of mine made some comments about my Family Movie Night post and got me thinking about how we choose books and TV/movies for Sam.  In this post, I'll focus on books.

I'm a bit ashamed to say that I didn't start discriminating about the content of what Sam read until fairly recently.  When she was a baby, it was just words, voice, and pictures, so I chose books based on whether they had pictures I thought she could perceive as related to real-life objects.  I also chose books based on whether they were the right length and whether they had the right amount of words on the page - too many and she would lose interest, too few and the page-turning would become distracting and chaotic.

I think this was a good set of criteria for book-choosing up until Sam was verbal. But at that point, I should have thought more carefully about what she read.  Looking back, I think in her early verbal stages (18 to 30 months old or so) I would have looked for a few things:

  • Books with words on one page and a picture on the opposite page.  About 6 months ago (when Sam was 3.5), she expressed confusion about how there were "two Cliffords."  There was a picture of Clifford (the Big Red Dog) on the left page and on the right page, and she thought there were two Cliffords!  She didn't understand the temporal advance from left-to-right.  I was surprised that she had never figured that out.  Of course, she learned it (we focused on that for a while), but I would have isolated the skill of matching one set of words with one picture early on if I had thought about it.  (I strongly agree with the Montessori principle of isolating the difficulty, but it is a huge challenge to do it properly. Scroll down to "I" in this glossary of Montessori terms to learn about isolation of difficulty.)

  • Books with a story-progression.  The purpose of fiction books is to tell stories.  Pre-verbal children obviously follow stories.  By the time they are verbal, they need to be challenged with more and more complex stories.  I think this is good preparation for literature (it is early literature!) and also a way of focusing and ordering the mind.  There are so many children's books (obviously targeted to toddlers and pre-schoolers) that just have no story whatsoever.  There's nothing wrong with those books - some have great language or pictures or are just fun.  My second favorite book (listed below) doesn't have a real plot.  But if I could do it over, I would have limited them and focused more on stories.  I think we did pretty well by default, though, since we all like stories so much.

  • Books with more real-life characters and less fantasy and nonsense.  I wish we hadn't read quite so many Dr. Seuss books to Sam.  Adam and I had purchased a bunch of them for ourselves before Sam was born because we like them as adults.  I don't think they are entirely worthless, but they are full of nonsense words, nonsense characters, and nonsense "stories."  They're probably appropriate later, as silly fun, when the child has a firmer grasp of reality versus fantasy.  But it's not just Dr. Suess (though he is probably the worst offender).  Why are children's books so full of senselessness and fantasy - and even animal characters?  I laughed with derision when I heard that some Montessori teachers recommend no books with talking animal characters at all, but now I'm not so dismissive of it.  Again, I don't think I'd eliminate all of those kinds of books (it would be so limiting!), but I'd certainly be on the lookout for real people in real situations as much as possible.

  • Poems.  We did read a lot of Mother Goose when Sam was about 18-24 months old.  She loved them, but maybe I would have differentiated poems from stories for her by only reading poems at a certain time of day or something like that.  We read her some more advanced children's poems now, along with adult poems that seem intelligible to her.

Now that Sam is four, we're looking for books with all of the above characteristics (except the word/picture issue), plus we are more concerned with the themes and messages. We recently got rid of one book that was explicitly altruistic and one that was pure subjectivism and egalitarianism in a sickly sweet, moralistic way.  Those pedantic books with conventional values are out.  But we have no problems with books with themes like "loyalty" or even "cooperation," even though those are not on our list of top virtues and values.  If a book shows that loyalty is good when it is loyalty to one's own (objective, not subjective) values in the face of pressure from others - that's a good theme.  When a book shows that a child who cooperates with others has more success than a bully - that's a good theme.  And "show, don't tell" applies here.  Overly pedantic books are irritating.  The theme must be part of the plot, just as in adult fiction.

We also like books with more advanced vocabulary or interesting language, but it's hard to get all of that in one package.  This is lower on the priority list for now, but I think it will become more important later.

Here is a partial list of some favorite age-appropriate books on Samantha's shelf right now.  Not all of these meet all the above criteria, but each has at least one special thing about it:

  • Brave Irene, by William Steig

  • The Napping House, by Audrey and Don Wood

  • The Wishing of Biddy Malone, by Joy Cowley (best book ever!)

  • Rickki Tikki Tavi, by Rudyard Kipling and Jerry Pinkney

  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

  • The Rusty Trusty Tractor by Joy Cowley

  • The Fancy Nancy series, by Jane O'Connor

  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

  • Buford the Little Bighorn, by Bill Peet

  • Adios Oscar, by Peter Elwell

  • All the Places to Love, by Patricia Maclachlan (second best book ever!)

  • Dr. DeSoto, by William Steig

  • The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Objectivist Round Up has been published and is eagerly awaiting your eyeballs and your mind.  Head over to Reepicheep's Coracle and give it your full attention.  Come on, you know it deserves it.


We were driving along the freeway on our way to our friends' house and Sam must have seen a road sign because she said:
Tee-oh.  That spells "to," right mommy?

Me:  Yes.

Sam:  What does "to" mean?

Me [fumbling]:  "To" is like when you say, "we can go TO the store and you can point TO the dog, and you can talk TO somebody."  It's an action towards something.

Adam:  It's a preposition.

And because I talk way too much, I continued:
Right now we are going TO our friends' house.  When we arrive there we will be AT their house.  Right now we are ON the freeway.

And Sam said:
And right now we are IN the car.

Pretty smart, that kid.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Family Movie Night

While I'm on the subject of family culture, I've been meaning to write about our latest chosen tradition:  Family Movie Night.  (Spoilers alert - I won't give too much away, but scan the movie titles below if you're concerned.)

Adam and I have been eagerly awaiting the time when Sam would be old enough to enjoy movies with us, and now is that time!  Most Saturday nights, we watch a movie together.  It has to be something that we all are likely to enjoy, so no Barbie movies, even though I think they're great movies for kids.

For our first movie, we watched the original Dumbo.  We didn't have anything on hand so we picked a dollar movie from the pay-per-view menu.  Adam and I thought we'd enjoy it, but we didn't.  I'm not really sure if Sam did either, but she did watch the whole thing.  It was all pretty senseless, and the scene where Dumbo got drunk was positively weird.  The good part, though, is that I finally learned where my favorite song from one of Sammy's baby CDs came from.

Next, we watched Enchanted.  We all enjoyed that one.  I thought it was a little bit like Galaxy Quest (but not as great), in that it poked fun at a movie genre without being completely cynical.  It took the fundamental values of the genre seriously (well, mostly) while laughing at inconsquentials like talking animals and old-fashioned costumes.  Seeing Susan Sarandon as an evil queen was a bonus, and we watched the fart scene about five times over for Sam's benefit.  But besides potty humor, I know that the film impacted Sam because she spent many days role-playing with her dolls having a "true love's kiss."  Sweet!

Next up was The Little Mermaid.  I'd heard such good things about this one, but I was disappointed.  Ariel was definitely an admirable heroine, but the story itself didn't do much for me.  It wasn't bad, it just didn't live up to my expectations.

Finally, this weekend we watched Finding Nemo, one of mine and Adam's most beloved movies from any genre.  My favorite part is when Dory and Marlin are inside the whale and she says (paraphrasing), "Come on! Everything is going to be all right!"  And he says, "But how do you know that?  How do you know that something bad isn't going to happen?"  And she pauses and then says, "I don't!"  And then they act.  The theme of this movie is motivation by love, not by fear.  And the theme is not something tacked on to some meaningless eye-candy for (what some adults believe to be) mindless children.  The whole movie is integrated around this theme, and it's a grand adventure, funny, sweet, charming, and beautiful to look at.  If you haven't seen it, you must.

Some of these movies had some scary parts, but Sam didn't seem to be bothered by them.  She was definitely sad for Nemo's mom when she died, and she talked about the queen turning into the dragon in Enchanted for many days in that scared-curious way that kids seem to have.  I'm sure much of the content of the movies was over Sam's head, but she probably understands a lot more than she can express.

I plan to make reviews of the movies we watch on Family Movie Night a regular part of The Little Things, so, until next time,

just keep swimming.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I just noticed something.  Adam and I have had our cat, Jinx, for ten years now. We got him shortly after we moved in together in Chicago.  As with all pet owners, I'm sure, we have all kinds of unique and silly ways of interacting with him.  We hold him like a baby and he chews on his tail, we sing him a dinnertime song every night (to the Bonanza theme song, "din-dindin-din-din, din-dindin-din-din, DIN DIN!...), and we say "ROLLY-POLLY!" in a really annoying voice whenever he rolls around on his back.

Today I heard Sammy say ROLLY-POLLY and it just struck me that there is now a third person in our house who interacts with this cat in the exact same way.  She is a Mossoff.  It's not her genes that make her so.  It's the fact that she has lived in this house with us for four years.  She is a part of the Mossoff culture.  That's what makes her family.

I'm highly focused on this issue of heredity versus environment because it looks like we're going to try to get pregnant using an egg donor in the next few months. I've also spoken to friends who know something about adoption, either as the parent or the child, about how it feels to have a family whose members do not all share genes.  The more I think about it, the less it seems to matter.  Part of that might be me just trying to see the positive in the situation.  I know that it seemed to matter to me greatly when we had Sam, that she was a mixture of Adam and me.  But in reality, the "mixture" that I see every day has so much more to do with the choices we all make and the experiences we have together, than it does with her hair or her eye color, or even her temperament.

A fourth voice in the house saying ROLLY POLLY would be a Good Thing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

We've Been Booed!

I'm not a big fan of the chain letter, but this one is fun.  We got BOOed last night!  We got a plate of candies and fun Halloween goodies along with a cute poem chain letter.

We have 24 hours to come up with treats for two of our neighbors.  This is the kind of thing Adam loves to participate in, so he's going to buy some stuff and Sam and I might decorate a couple of our mini-pumpkins this afternoon.  I doubt that we'll match the beautiful presentation that we received (I wish I had taken a photo before we dived into the candy), but it will be fun trying.

I'm 100% in favor of extending Halloween out a bit, just like Christmas, and this is such a benevolent way to do it.  If you haven't seen this trend in your neighborhood yet and want to start it, consider this a virtual BOO!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Little Thing

Last year, when I'd ask Sammy what work she did at school that day, she'd say things like, POLISHING, METAL INSETS, CLEANING THE CHAIR.

This year, when I ask the same question, she says things like, PHONOGRAMS, SCIENCE EXPERIMENT, READING.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Atlas Shrugged Video Contest

ARI is sponsoring a new contest:  the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest!

You have until December 8 to make a 3 minute video on "how Ayn Rand’s epic story relates to current issues in society or in your own life."

Awesome!  I can't wait to see the winners.

Objectivist Round Up #170

Welcome to the October 14, 2010 edition of The Objectivist Round Up, a blog carnival of posts written by individuals who are advocates of Objectivism, the philosophy developed and defined by Ayn Rand.

For anyone new to Ayn Rand and Objectivism, here is my favorite quote summing up her views:
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

Ayn Rand, “About the Author,” Atlas Shrugged

Sense of life, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, all in one sentence.  You might notice that politics is not mentioned explicitly in this passage.  If you only know about Ayn Rand because of her political views, you owe it to yourself to read her fiction, especially The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, where you will find heroic men, pursuing their happiness through the use of reason in inspiring tales of productive achievement.

And now, on to the Round Up:

Burgess Laughlin presents Best approach to disputes in a movement? posted at Making Progress, saying, "Every movement faces disputes among its members. Having a reasoned approach to such internal disputes reduces the stress of continuing to work for one's activist goals under those conditions. This article asks questions as a first step in a reasoned approach."

Roberto Sarrionandia presents The Cognitive Function of Art posted at Roberto Sarrionandia, saying, "The important cognitive function that is served by art"

John McVey presents Historical data in the fractional reserve banking debate posted at John J McVey, saying, "This is a response to Publius from Objectivist Answers, plus partially remedies some of the defects of Part Two."

Roderick Fitts presents Bacon's Theory of Induction as Presented in the Novum Organum Part 1 of 2 posted at Inductive Quest, saying, "it's my technical summary of Bacon's magnum opus, the Novum Organum. This part covers what we need to consider before we can understand his theory of induction. So exciting!"

Roderick Fitts presents Bacon's Theory of Induction as Presented in his Novum Organum, Part 2 of 2 posted at Inductive Quest, saying, "The final part of my summary of Bacon's Novum Organum, detailing his theory of forms and his theory of the inductive method. Long live induction!"

Kelly Valenzuela presents The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010: A Disgrace! posted at Mother of Exiles, saying, "Santiago Valenzuela weighs in on proposed immigration legislation."

Kelly Valenzuela presents How Should the US Reform its Immigration Policy? posted at Mother of Exiles, saying, "Guest blogger, Santiago Valenzuela, proposes solutions to our country's immigration problems."

Kelly Valenzuela presents Oh Life – A Super Easy Online Journal Tool posted at Rant from the Rock, saying, "For those of you who forget to journal, this website could be a big help."

Ari Armstrong presents Colorado Ballot: Free Colorado News posted at Free Colorado, saying, "I interview Mike Krause about CO Am. 63, "Health Care Choice," and discuss my CO ballot."

Joshua John M. Lipana presents An Interview with Dr. Paul Hsieh posted at This is Joshua Speaking.

Joshua John M. Lipana presents Free Enterprise Vol. 1 Issue. 2 2010 posted at This is Joshua Speaking, saying, "A philippine-based Pro-Objectivist Pro-Free Market periodical produced by Joshua Lipana"

Rational Jenn presents It's Johnny's Birthday. . . posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "This post about my love of The Beatles was written in honor of John Lennon's 70th birthday."

Danielle Morrill presents Who’s Actually Getting Read in Objectivism (Online) posted at Danielle Morrill.

Diana Hsieh presents The Resignation of John McCaskey: The Facts posted at NoodleFood, saying, "Paul's and my survey of the facts surrounding John McCaskey's resignation from the boards of the Anthem Foundation and the Ayn Rand Institute."

Kelly Elmore presents What I Have Read, What I'm Reading, and What's on Deck posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, "A list of and comments about the books I read in September, books I'm reading right now, and books that I have waiting on my shelf. List is filled with adult and young adult fiction, non-fiction of many varieties, Middle English, and a parenting or homeschooling resource or two. Something for everyone, just like the Sears Catalog."

Jeff Montgomery presents Buchanan/Pawnee Pass Loop Run posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, "A long post about a long, hard run in the Indian Peaks, with photos."

Michael Labeit presents Don't Call Them Progressives posted at Michael Labeit at

Rachel Miner presents Birthday Gems posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, "I share some key thoughts on making a birthday party successful. I'm still putting away the new toys, doing laundry, and all the other post party/visitor things, but I wanted to share these thoughts on what made this party the smoothest one for us so far."

Mike Zemack presents Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It posted at Principled Perspectives, saying, "The Republicans need ideological backbone to give meaning to their coming electoral rout of the Democrats."

Amy Mossoff presents Don't Be a Plastic Bashing Luddite! posted at The Little Things, saying, "Plastic is a good thing. Why did I let the Luddites infect my thinking for so long? (Warning: this post is a rant, and only a rant.)"

Trey Givens presents A Tutorial for Outlook Users Who Wish to Avoid Annoying Me posted at Trey Givens, saying, "OMG! What is UP with these people who send emails marked "urgent" that contain stupid, mundane, very-not-urgent content!?!? Well, in the spirit of assuming people are more stupid than they are malicious, I created this tutorial."

Jason Stotts presents On Polysexuality Overview posted at Erosophia, saying, "Is polysexuality (non-monogamy) natural? Can it be moral? Find out in my new series of essays on the subject."

A. Chambers presents Prohibition Déjà vu posted at The Undercurrent Blog, saying, "How does drug prohibition affect current violence in the U.S. and Mexico?"

Edward Cline presents Of Federaphobia and Islamophobia posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, "Dark propinquity governs the attacks on freedom of speech coming from two principal quarters: The Democrats, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Their ideological hostility to freedom of speech is mutual and certainly proximate."

That concludes this edition.  Submit your blog article to the next edition of The Objectivist Round Up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't Be a Plastic Bashing Luddite!

Last night I spent a half hour cleaning 15 pumpkin stickers off of Sam's wood table that I purchased for her Montessori work four months ago.  The finish of the table is ruined, and I have something to say:

Wood is not better than plastic.

If you're a new parent, you hear it everywhere: how horrible it is that all children's toys are plastic, and how we should get them things made of natural materials.  Why?  Well, I've seen some good arguments about how important it is to expose babies to a lot of different textures and materials.  And of course, children need to learn what wood is and what it feels like and how it can be used.

So go ahead a get a set of wooden alphabet blocks.  But bemoaning the fact that so many children's toys and products are made of plastic smacks of anti-technology primitivism.  Compared to wood, plastic is cheaper, more durable, more versatile, more colorful, more lightweight, and does less damage when bashed into a wall (or a face).  Plastic is an amazing material in many ways, but it is especially great for children's products.

If I want to show Samantha something natural, I'll take her outside to look at the trees.  Next time, I'm buying the plastic table.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Good Stuff

I had a most excellent holiday weekend, the highlight of which was Luc Travers' Art Tour at the National Gallery.  I have a lot to say about that, but not enough time right now because I'm completely behind on things like paying the bills, doing laundry, and picking up the house in preparation for maid day tomorrow.  Oh, and sleeping.  I really need to catch up on that.

Besides the Art Tour, I took Sam to a pumpkin patch, attended a baby shower, had two nice dinners with good friends, drank lots of wine and beer, and got my hair done.  That doesn't really sound like a lot, but it felt like a lot.  And now I've been sitting here for a half hour trying to find some clever way to wrap up this boring post, but all I can think about is that pumpkin pie I promised Sam we would make together.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Objectivism and The Ayn Rand Institute

Here I go again.  I have two more links today.  Neither is political, but both are ideological.

First we have The Objectivist Round Up, hosted by Sacred Ego.

Next, I would like to make a brief statement:

The Ayn Rand Institute is of great value to me, and so I've donated a little bit extra this month.  I am doing so (and making this public statement) after carefully thinking about an issue that has arisen in the Objectivist "movement," and specifically, thinking about it in these terms (including my husband's comments).

Update:  I realize now that I should have clarified that this is not about the McCaskey/Harriman issue.  And as long as I'm at it, it is not about the mosque debate either.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


One part of parenting that has been a bit more difficult for me than for some others is my family's constantly shifting schedule.  Not only did we move four times in Samantha's first two years of life, but my husband is a professor, tied to the academic calendar.

Don't get me wrong - being a professor is a career that is very compatible with involved parenting!  We are so lucky that Adam can mostly set his own hours and spend more time with Samantha than many other working parents.  We are also able to travel more, and the pay is good enough to allow me not to work for an income.  And none of those benefits cover the fact that Adam loves his work so much.  Our situation is as close to ideal as I can imagine.

But that doesn't mean there aren't challenges, and the big one for me is that Adam's schedule changes three times each year, depending on his teaching schedule.  He might have to teach a night class one semester, and an early morning class the next.  He doesn't teach every day, so that makes each weekday a little bit different.  Of course, teaching is only one aspect of his work, but it is the one that requires specific hours in "the office."

Adam isn't the kind of person to keep regular hours.  He's a night owl, for one thing, and he's also not a planner.  He works in irregular spurts, which is also part of the nature of his work.  I can't count the number of times that he has jumped out of bed in the middle of the night to write down a brilliant flash of insight he just had.  And when he does so, it usually means hours of work.  He may or may not go into the office the next day, or he might go in late.  In the past, he would also just stay at the office until he felt like he was done working, which might be early or late at night.

The nature of the professor's work schedule actually suits Adam's temperament very well, but it does not suit mine.  I'm a planner and a scheduler.  I like regularity in the day-to-day aspects of life such as meals, bedtime, and the like.  Anyone with kids knows that it is also extremely important to have a regular daily schedule to help them regulate themselves, and that it makes the logistics of parenting much easier.  Over the years, Adam and I have been able to work out a system that allows him his flexibility and still gives Sam and me a way to plan our days.

  • Each semester, Adam decides what time he will be home at night, every night.  If he has a night class (which is usually just once a week), that night is an exception.  And of course, there are exceptions for working dinners and events that he has to attend quite often.  But on a normal workday, he must commit to being home by a particular time, regardless of his class schedule or whether he is in the middle of writing something earth-shattering.

  • The previous requirement is mostly in service of this one: We have dinner together as a family every night that it is possible.  Dinner is at a fixed time each night.  This is our sacred family time.  Exceptions happen, but they happen within the fixed framework.  There was a point when Sam was little that I had to call Adam every single day to find out when I should have dinner ready.  As Sam got older this quickly became a big problem, and we solved it this way.

  • When Adam has to travel for work on weekends, he needs to make some extra time at home during the week.  His travel often occurs on weekends, and I had become frustrated that that time always was subtracted from family-time, not work-time.  We don’t have a firm rule about exactly how much time will be exchanged.  Maybe he’ll be gone on a Saturday and just come home early on Monday.  A lot depends on what is going on with him at the time.  The point is only that his weekends need to be viewed as family-time, so anything that interferes with that is an exception.

  • Finally – and Adam had to work on this for more than a year to get it down since it goes against his nature – Adam must be primarily responsible for creating his semester schedule, and doing it right away at the beginning of the semester.  Even after he agreed to the other points, he thought it was ok to take a few weeks to nail down the schedule, or to expect me to track his time and tell him when he needed to be home.  There were times when I was unaware of his travel plans until the last minute.  This was a huge source of conflict between us, but in the past semester or two, we’ve had no issues.

This system allows Adam to go into work at whatever time suits him.  He can still utilize his middle-of-the-night flashes of insight, or work at home in the evenings if necessary.  He really just has to focus on a time to be home for dinner, and he does a great job at that.  We still have a lot of irregularity in our lives because of all the exceptions, but the fact that we do have a framework makes all the difference in the world for me.

We set up a new schedule that works for both of us each semester. For example, last spring, Adam taught a night class on Tuesdays and couldn’t be home for dinner.  So Sam and I had “girls night out” where we went out to dinner each Tuesday.  It was a lot of fun, and we never would have done it otherwise.  Over the summer (which requires its own schedule), Adam discovered that if he left work an hour later than usual, his commute was reduced from 45-50 minutes to only 20-25 minutes.  This means he gets home at 7pm instead of 6:30, but it saves him so much time that we decided to try it this semester.  We now have dinner at 7pm and Sam gets to bed a bit later, but she’s old enough to handle it.  And to make up for lost time in the evenings, Adam drives Sam to school three mornings each week, which is a great thing for all of us.

Next semester, Adam doesn’t teach at all, and we’ll have to come up with a whole new plan.  And as long as I know that we will have a daily/weekly schedule, I don’t mind the uncertainty of that.  In fact, I kind of like it.  Who knows what benefits it will bring?  Maybe Adam will make his “weekends” Sunday and Monday, allowing us to do all kinds of touristy things on a weekday when they are less crowded.  Maybe he’ll drive Sam to school every day.  Or maybe he'll take her to swim lessons.  I'm all for spontaneity, as long as it is well-planned!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Government Motors and the Tea Party

I have two good links for you today.  (My blog seems to be very political this week.  Don't worry - it won't last.)

First, check out Adam's latest publication:  How the 'New GM' Can Steal from Toyota. From the abstract:
This essay explains how a 2006 court decision arising from the manufacture of the F-22 Raptor fighter jet paves the way for government-owned General Motors to steal intellectual property. In Zoltek v. U.S., the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that a loophole in the Tucker Act (28 U.S.C. § 1498) prevented owners of patented processes from suing the federal government for certain types of unauthorized uses of their patents. The Zoltek court also held that patents are not secured as constitutional "private property" under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. At the time, many judges and lawyers thought that these statutory and constitutional loopholes for patent-owners were insignificant; at worst, they argued, this benefits only military contractors and the like.

Fast forward four years and the federal government now owns the "new GM." It was inconceivable in 2006 that Uncle Sam soon would be in the business of making cars, not to mention in the businesses of banking and insurance, setting salaries of CEOs, purchasing mortgages, etc., etc.

The only part of that I would take issue with is the word "inconceivable."  I do not think that word means what he think it means (heh!).  Ayn Rand certainly conceived of it.  But seriously, if the idea of reading an article in a law journal scares you, give this one a chance - it's short and easy to read.  (Click "one-click-download" at the top of the screen to get the full article.)

Next, we have Harry Binswanger's excellent article on the Tea Party Movement.  This is the best statement I've read anywhere about the Tea Party because Dr. Binswanger does the opposite of what most journalists do: he essentializes.  I've been struggling to get to the heart of the Tea Party myself, and this article helped to clarify my thinking a great deal.  (It also includes a great list of the best Tea Party demonstration signs!)  I've come to agree with Dr. Binswanger that:
... Objectivists should recognize and value what is a startling, unprecedented phenomenon: the rise, in an eyeblink, of a pro-freedom, pro-American, avowedly *individualistic* political movement--a movement friendly to Ayn Rand, favorable to Atlas Shrugged, and popularizing the phrase "Who is John Galt?"

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Could Be a Murderer

Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong have written a policy paper opposing Colorado's Amendment 62, a ballot initiative seeking to legally define "personhood" as beginning at the moment of conception.  You can find the paper, entitled The 'Personhood' Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception, at the web site of the Coalition for Secular Government.

If Amendment 62 were the law of the land, I would be a murderer for aborting a severely deformed fetus.  Despite the fact that I have put myself through the hell of six pregnancies with only one child as a result in the attempt to bring new life into the world, I would also be barred from pursuing that value by Amendment 62, which would effectively criminalize in vitro fertilization.  (Congratulations and thanks to Robert Edwards, who just won the Nobel Prize in medicine for developing IVF.)

I never felt very strongly about the abortion issue until it became real to me because of my own personal experience.   Now I understand why this is one of the biggest political issues of our day.  At a theoretical level, it cuts to the heart of what individual rights are.  If you don't ground rights in man's nature as a rational being, you can only default to the intrinsicism of religion or the abandonment of rights as a principle.  And precisely because of this importance in theory, we have a massive conflict in practice.

I am a living person with rights, seeking my own happiness.  Those in favor of Amendment 62 would condemn me for that very fact, in the name of the potential that I am trying to actualize.  It's bizarre.  Those people can keep their goddamn imaginary world of heaven, hell, and mystical souls of the unborn, but they'd better leave this world to me.

Please read this paper and consider forwarding it, linking to it, or publicizing it in any way that you can.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Health Update

So I've begun my quest to figure out whether or not I have lupus.

Here is the short version of the story: I talked to my aunt who has lupus to find out what her early symptoms were and how she was diagnosed.  She had more severe symptoms than I do, but the nature of the pain she had is remarkably similar to mine.  I've seen two doctors, and they are both willing to empirically treat me for lupus, but I want to wait to see a rheumatologist in mid-October before I make that decision.

In the meantime, I'm on a new NSAID for the pain and it is actually working!  I feel great.  I can pick up a glass of water with my right hand again, I can check my blind spot while driving, I can walk without being in agony, and I have enough energy to get through the day.  I don't know why no doctor has given me this drug before.  It's interesting that, without the pain, I also don't have the fatigue or the stress that I had before.  Those symptoms usually go along with pain in these hard-to-diagnose cases, but it seems to be assumed that the stress causes or exacerbates the pain, and that the fatigue is a separate symptom.  I wonder if the pain is actually the cause of both of the others.

Then yesterday I finally got the results of the genetic analysis of the fetus from my last miscarriage.  It was trisomy 15.  Out of four miscarriages, we know for sure that two were genetic abnormalities.  This argues against lupus being any part of the miscarriage problem, which means that lupus is less likely overall.  Whatever happens with the lupus investigation, I have to deal with the miscarriages separately.  I could have more than one problem going on here, but since there is no real evidence of that, I'm leaning more and more towards being hopeful about donor egg.

To be continued...

Objectivist Round Up

Here it is!  This week's Round Up can be found at Rational Jenn's blog.