Thursday, June 28, 2012

Objectivist Round-up for June 28, 2012

Welcome to the Objectivist Round-up for June 28, 2012.  This is my first time hosting the weekly carnival of articles on various topics by Objectivist bloggers, and I'm glad I got to play host before the carnival finally winds down in a few weeks.  I want to give a big shout out to Rational Jenn and a big thank you to her, for organizing and running the Round-up.

This is also the last Round-up before Independence Day. Even though it's nearly a week away, I'll take this opportunity to present a quote on the Founding Fathers and their unique achievement, from the book The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff, as quoted in the Ayn Rand Lexicon. This quote takes on a particular resonance given this morning's announcement of the Supreme Court upholding the Obamacare individual mandate, about which I'm sure there will be ample commentary in next week's carnival.
Throughout history the state had been regarded, implicitly or explicitly, as the ruler of the individual—as a sovereign authority (with or without supernatural mandate), an authority logically antecedent to the citizen and to which he must submit. The Founding Fathers challenged this primordial notion. They started with the premise of the primacy and sovereignty of the individual. The individual, they held, logically precedes the group or the institution of government. Whether or not any social organization exists, each man possesses certain individual rights. And “among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—or, in the words of a New Hampshire state document, “among which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness.”
And now, without further ado, I present this week's Objectivist Round-up:

Tim Cheadle presents Design Thinking - Tim Cheadle posted at Tim Cheadle, saying, "A brief recap of my design talk with Tori Press, along with the slides we presented."

Paul McKeever presents "Bully": the new "Nazi" posted at Paul McKeever, saying, "Prepare to see the "Bully" card played more an more frequently in a place near you."

Darius Cooper presents Country Shares of World GDP posted at Practice Good Theory, saying, "I present some graphs showing relative GDPs of various countries"

Diana Hsieh presents NoodleCast #143: Q&A Radio Podcast: Spanking, Parenting, Cheating, and More posted at Philosophy in Action, saying, "In Sunday's episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered questions on corporal punishment of kids, parenting as a central purpose, compartmentalized cheating, something greater than yourself, and more."

Rachel Miner presents Lindamood Bell Experience posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, "Lindamood Bell is an individualized, intensive therapy that helps students with very specific language issues. In this post, I write about my experience using one of their programs. Due primarily to the high cost, it was a decision that took several years to make, but it was a positive experience that other parents may find valuable. They also work with adults."

Paul Hsieh presents Backdoor Euthanasia in the UK? posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, "A UK neurologist reports that British patients with treatable conditions are being pushed against their will into "care pathways" for the terminally ill."

Roberto B Sarrionandia presents Andrew Brown wins 1/9th of a free coffee posted at Roberto Sarrionandia, saying, "Is the Guardian giving out free coffee to journalists who smear Ayn Rand?"

John Drake presents Starting a Project with Zero Resources posted at Try Reason!, saying, "Even if you don't have the time or money, it is possible to start big projects. You just have to get REALLY creative."

Rational Jenn presents Tonight! posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "Kelly and I are appearing Wednesday evening on the Philosophy in Action radio show to discuss Parenting without Punishment. By the time the carnival appears, the radio show will already have happened. But if you missed it, you can catch the recording at the Philosophy in Action website."

Earl Parson presents Strange in a Good Way posted at Creatures of Prometheus, saying, "I've finally taken the plunge and rented a workspace outside my home. I'm now the resident architect at Strangeways Academy!"

That concludes this edition. The next edition of the Objectivist Round-up will be hosted over at Three Ring Binder. Submit your blog article to using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Strange in a Good Way

For the first time ever, in the entire history of the Universe as I have known it, I have a place outside my house where I can go for no other purpose than to do my own work.

My work.

I can't tell you what a thrill this is.

My friend Ana posted on facebook several weeks ago about an upcoming vacancy at Strangeways Academy. Strangeways is a shared studio-workspace in Chinatown that she started with some other graphic designers a few years ago. It's not fancy; it's a small storefront with 6 identical desks, behind each of which is a single Homasote panel for pinning stuff up on the wall. In the front there is a conference table, but that area converts, via some clever moving walls, into a gallery space where they have exhibitions from time to time.

I had gone to some of their gallery openings and events in the past, and had looked longingly at Ana's previous facebook postings of vacancies there. Finally, the timing was perfect. My work has picked up, and and the summer is turning out to be pretty busy for me. In fact, I'm relatively confident that things are even somewhat secure (to whatever extent that word has any meaning at all these days), probably though the end of the year (fingers crossed). So, when Ana posted about the upcoming vacancy, back in May, I expressed interest.  Then I had to go out of town and the whole thing was back-burnered for a bit.

After a few weeks went by and the workspace was still available, I met her down in Chinatown for lunch one afternoon and we went over the particulars. The next step was a meet-n-greet lunch with the other studiomates, which happened on Friday, June 8th.  The following Monday I moved in.  

Some of the Strangeways folk also teach, and some also have other full- or part-time employment or consulting they do elsewhere, so it's rarely a full house. I generally have the place to myself, especially in the mornings.

I'll continue to settle in there over the coming weeks.  I plan to bring these shelves that I made for behind my desk, and I'll populate my Homasote panel with some inspiring images and such. Even without those things, having a place without the distractions of home, where I can just focus on my work, is bliss.  And, I can walk from my house down to the Highland Park stop on the Gold Line and ride it down to Chinatown, where the station is only a couple blocks from the studio.  From there, I can also take the metro to my gym, which is on the other side of Downtown (although I haven't tried that yet).

Another plus is that Strangeways is dog-friendly, although I haven't met any of the other studio dogs (except for Ana's dog Gus, whom I had met previously).  Paul and Daisy came here with me one evening last week, and I think that Daisy still needs a bit more civilizing before we make that much of a habit. I found a place in my neighborhood with great Yelp reviews for obedience training, so after I return from OCON (woohoo!) we'll get started on that.

Here it is:

Right next to the herbal foot reflexology joint on Jung Jing Road!  Stop by and say Hi!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Celebrating Frank Lloyd Wright's Birthday, 2012 Edition

Last year I inaugurated my Birthdays of the Great Ones series on this date with Frank Lloyd Wright.  I enjoy the little inspirational boost I get from this series. (Looking back, I guess I didn't post as many of these as I added to my Google Calendar. Hopefully I'll be better at it in the coming year.)

And now a year has gone by, and we're back around to Mr. Wright.  Here are a few links on Wright and his work for your edification and Friday enjoyment.

ArchDaily has a nice little piece on Wright today with a lovely photo of Fallingwater surrounded by colorful autumn leaves.

Here is an enjoyable lecture by historian Robert Twombly, discussing the relationship between Wright and his mentor Louis Sullivan. I listened to this on the plane back from ATLOSCON.  It's about an hour long. As I recall, the audio is a little rough at first, but it gets better after a minute or two. He does an good job of fact-checking a lot of the dates and assertions put forth by Wright regarding his relationship to and work for Sullvan, and has an interesting take on Wright's moonlighting and subsequent firing from Sullivan's office.

Of course there's always Wikipedia's entry on Wright for the relatively brief overview of his long career.

He didn't get a Google Doodle this year, but he got one in 2005, which you can see here. I can recognize the Larkin Building (I think, in yellow), the Guggenheim, and of course Fallingwater. I don't quite see what the little cube next to the red O is supposed to be.

Lastly, you can also check out my posts from last year, where I posted a YouTube video of Wright from the early days of television, and some photos from my visit to Fallingwater a few years ago.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ATLOSCON 2012 Wrap-Up

Over Memorial Day weekend I had a great time in Atlanta attending (and presenting at) ATLOSCON, the mini-conference of the Atlanta Objectivist Society. I also presented a seminar on how modern architecture is much more than just blank white minimalist boxes, which is what I think most members of the general public think of, if they think of modern architecture at all. My talk was both well attended (over 40 people, about half of the total conference attendance! WooHoo!) and very well received.

The few weeks leading up to the conference, I was completely deluged with work, and the week immediately prior, I came down with a bad sinus infection. All of this combined to make getting out of town in any kind of reasonable way almost impossible, and I nearly missed my flight. I gave up on preparing my remarks in advance, and decided to just skip half a day of the conference to do it in Atlanta. That part worked out pretty well, and, combined with the fact that I can stand in front of a room full of people and talk about architecture all day long anyway, meant that I was in good shape by the time it was my turn to present.

But before I get ahead of myself, let's briefly recap the whole weekend.

I flew in on Thursday, arriving at around 3:00. Tom picked me up at the airport and we we went back to our hotel. We had arranged to split a room and a car, which all worked out very well. I needed the car because I had another architectural agenda for the weekend besides my talk: visiting and photographing the Peachtree Center and its adjacent hotels in downtown Atlanta, all of which were designed by the architect John Portman.

Thursday night was the conference meet-n-greet event, and it was like a homecoming for me in many ways.  I had gotten to know many of the ATLOS folks when I was in the area (sort of) building the Tennessee House. That was almost 2 years ago! It was great to see old friends again and begin to get caught up in person (which is so much better than Facebook and the blogs, although they are better than nothing). The highlight of my evening was meeting Lynne Bourque and her husband Stephen. I have known them online for a while, and they are every bit as great in person as I had expected them to be.

Friday morning I discovered that the local public library was next door to the rec center where the conference was held, which made it extra easy to cut class and work on my talk, while still joining everyone for lunch. The rest of the day I had 3 seminars, which were "What's So Darn Special About Firefly?" with Kelly Elmore; "Design Thinking" with Tim Cheadle and Tori Press; and "Wine and Cheese? Yes, please!" presented by Maggie Roberts. All of them were fun and engaging, and a good time was had by all.

That night I got busy polishing my talk for the next day, and decided in the process to scrap all the slides I had prepared earlier at the library, and devote my entire talk to John Lautner's architecture. I realized that since I had tons of photos of some excellent examples of his houses, both from the tour I took last summer and a couple of events I had participated in since, I would show those. The photos really did deserve a wider audience, and they fit my talk perfectly, which was titled, "Style and Individualism in Modern Architecture". You will be hard pressed to find a more individualistic architecture than Lautner's, and I had around 8 very good examples of his houses (some of which I still need to write up for the blog), ranging from his early career in the 1940s to as late as the '80s. By the time I pulled it all together and appropriately revised my introductory remarks, I finally made it to sleep by around 2am.

Saturday morning rolled around and I was up extra early re-editing and revising, and deciding which shirt to wear for my talk.  Before I presented I attended Miranda Barzey's talk on "The Importance and Value of Personal Style" which I enjoyed, although I was mostly focusing on my notes for my talk, which was next. (We were a little late to Miranda's presentation because Tom let his GPS talk us into going to the wrong Starbucks (#firstworldproblems) which I bring up here in the spirit of not being ready to let him live it down.)

Then it was my turn! The room was packed and I was a little nervous at first, but then I was fine once my own enthusiasm for the work took over.  They audience was responsive and engaged, and asked great questions along the way. I had floor plans for some of the houses, and one person remarked to me that he started to glaze over at first, when the first plan drawing flashed onto the screen, but that when I started pointing out specific features of the house in plan and linking them to the photos too, that it really came alive for him. Also, he observed that others in the audience were having a similar experience. I had many comments afterward that a) my enthusiasm was infectious; and b) that people in general had no idea that modern architecture could be so interesting!

I can't express how happy it makes me that I took a bunch of people who were pretty much ambivalent at best with regard to modern architecture and showed them a beautiful and interesting side to it that they didn't know existed previously. It just doesn't get much better than that.

That afternoon I had 2 more seminars: "The History and Science of Five Classic Cocktails" with Trey Peden and Tori Press; and "Maintaining Rational Optimism" with Paul Hsieh. That evening was the big party at the Casey House, where I had a great time mingling, meeting new people, and talking about the events of the weekend.  It was great to unwind and relax with a great group of folks, once my presentation was out of the way.

Sunday morning I headed to downtown Atlanta to check out the Peachtree Center and its hotels by John Portman. Portman pioneered the big open atrium lobby style of hotel (with glass elevators going up and down in the big atrium lobby).  This model is somewhat common today, but never existed at all prior to his 1967 Hyatt Regency, which is one of the three hotels by him in downtown Atlanta that I got to see on this trip. They were doing work on the roof and skylight but it still looked pretty great:

I also saw the Westin and Marriott Marquis, both of which were amazing, but I have to say that the Marriott rises above amazing to the level of stunning. I'll discuss these buildings in  more detail in the future, since I'm out of time today. Suffice it to say I have my subject matter for next year's ATLOSCON talk, likely to include a walking tour!

The rest of my Sunday afternoon included the OHomos panel discussion with myself, Tom, and Trey; and "Exploring Ayn Rand's Theory of Concepts" presented by Stephen Bourque.  The panel discussion was lively and consisted largely of coming out stories and questions from parents or future-parents about gayness and kids. Stephen's talk was just getting interesting when he unfortunately ran out of time, but he had some interesting observations on the topic.

It's hard to decide which aspect of the conference I enjoyed most, between seeing old friends, giving my talk, and seeing the Portman buildings.  Let's just call it a trifecta weekend of awesomeness.

Big shout out to Jenn, Kelly, Miranda, and the ATLOS-folk who put together such a great and fun conference!