Link, and reed pens

I like this story... and I think it goes along with what I've posted recently. Not that everyone who reads Ayn Rand is a murderous psychopath, but it certainly reinforces any tendencies that you might have in that direction in a way that reading, let's say, Paul Krugman, doesn't.

In other news, I've recently purchased a reed pen - how did I live without it! I will now be the eccentric fellow who takes his bottle of ink and sketchpad everywhere!


Two things about Ayn Rand

I would probably get tired of bashing Ayn Rand if I didn't think that an increasing number of people take her writings seriously; but neither of these things are new.
First, I mentioned before that she set out to create a "political philosophy that was the opposite of Communism as she understood it... in doing so she came up with a dogmatic position unconnected to reality." But there's one piece that wasn't the opposite of the Communism that she fled: she was an atheist. That's not remarkable in itself, but insofar as the Tea Party harbors elements of the Religious Right - and insofar as Rand Paul identifies as a Presbyterian - there's a fundamental problem. That is, she isn't incidentally an atheist: it's an essential part of her position, in the same way that it's an essential part of Richard Dawkins' or Daniel Dennett's approach to the world.
Second, she was a bit of sociopath. Or rather, she admired a brutal killer for his casual disregard for other people, his flouting of societal conventions (like, "Thou shalt not kill."). Hickman was clearly a sociopath, and Ayn Rand saw this as a heroic quality that set him apart from the herd (and speaking of herds, let me just mention that there's a deep tension in Nietzsche's writings in his rejection of herd morality, the positive things he sees that herd morality has contributed to modern humanity, and the ineluctable interconnection of all things - and Ayn Rand criticized him for it).
Two further thoughts on this second point: first, as with her atheism, this isn't very different from her understanding of the Communist regime she fled. Second, it seems to me that her atheism and her admiration of this sociopath aren't disconnected; in contrast, both Dawkins and Dennett promote a humanistic vision that rejects such brutality.
As I said, neither of these points are revelations, I would just like to see some recognition that her views are antithetical to Christian principles.
The Tea Party can go one way or the other, but there's no splitting the difference on this.


Prints, and a painting

I was going to - and may yet - write a bit about what "liberty" might mean, and what security we might have... and why this guy is an idiot. But today I've just been job searching, reading the news, and working on prints and pictures. So, a bit about what's posted here.

The Plum Blossom painting is on a wooden panel, 24 inches square (you may recognize the dimension and material from here, here and here, among other paintings: my favorite!).

You may also recognize the coffee cup - another favorite, working its way through various incarnations (eventually, a linocut!) - but I did this a year or so ago, one of my first successful DIY screenprints.

"Orbits" was an experiment that didn't work out quite as I had intended, but came out adequately well. This is actually printed on nice paper (Johannot), whereas the other things are printed either on cardstock or copy paper.

The first bicycle print is on copy paper, but as I type this prints on the Johannot paper, in turquoise, are drying; I'll post those later in the week. The black was just to get a sense of the block, to see if it was finished (almost, but not quite). But I think it came out fairly well.
Finally, the bicycle print with rider (and you should recognize the rider from my previous post). The rider should stand out a bit better on the turquoise ink than he does on the black, but the idea comes across.

As usual, I think the weak link is the photography, but that's getting better, too. What I really need is a tripod of some sort.


What shall I do?

I'm once again looking for a job, but it's not entirely clear what I ought to even apply for.
When I was in high school, we were given a large standardized test relating to future employment, determining both strengths and interests. I scored as having strengths in everything they tested (which I believe demonstrates the limitations of such tests - I'm a good test taker, but probably wouldn't have done well in many of the occupations!) - but when it came to interests, the test results indicated that I was only interested in things they couldn't test (I believe it was art and writing, but it may have been music and writing).
In college, I took a psychology class on personality, and read (related to, but not for, the class) Carl Jung's book Psychological Types. This led me to the Myers-Briggs personality types (I have probably mentioned this before, but I am an INFP).
There is a book which relates the Myers-Briggs to careers: Do What You Are, and I have the second edition. So, what does it say?
For the INFP, the first category is "Creative/Arts"; the second is "Education/Counseling"; the third is "Religion." (For each of the sixteen types, there is a different list of categories; e.g., the ESTJ's top three categories are "Sales and Service," "Technical/Physical" and "Managerial") If you know me (and other INFPs), these categories make sense. I don't find them helpful at the moment, though. Moving to careers under the categories isn't helpful either: for Creative/Arts, the first two careers are "Artist" and "Writer," for Education/Counselor, "College professor: humanities/arts," and for Religion, "Minister/priest."
As an unprogrammed Quaker, I'm not particularly interested in becoming a minister (despite having an MDiv); I would certainly like to be a professor in the humanities, but so would lots of other people with similar credentials. And then we're back to the results of my high school aptitude test.
I've also been making prints.


Friday afternoon

I said I would return to previous themes, and I've been painting (house) this week, which has given me time to ruminate. (There's a relevant Nietzsche quote that belongs there, but I'm too lazy to look it up at the moment, and far enough out from my book to be able to pull it up from memory.)
Last time I wrote, "I neither expect nor really want my students to ponder epistemological questions, but there's something important about flexing those muscles." There are two pieces there that probably need clarification.
First, I do want my students to ponder epistemological questions. However, I usually tell them that the great skeptic Hume liked to drink beer and shoot pool (more or less true) and didn't spend his life paralyzed by questions of causation. Being aware that there are various ways of approaching questions, different ways of gathering and analyzing evidence, is very important; and to a certain extent, understanding the difference between foundationalism (Stanford and IEP) and coherentism (IEP and Stanford) is also useful - but practical matters take precedence, and getting bogged down isn't useful, and even serious philosophers don't wrestle with Descartes' dream argument in their everyday lives.
I say this partly because I received an essay (9 pages long, when the assignment was 3-5 pages - a bad start) that included the following:

Let A=K*E1 with K being the fundamental constant that converts the experience, E, to knowledge.
[If this is your essay and you want me to identify you as the author, let me know. But I'm pointing out your idiocy here, and still wondering if you were stoned when you wrote it.]

For those of you who are unfamiliar with epistemology - a group which includes the author of this quote - the "fundamental constant, K" is basically what philosophers have been arguing about for millennia. To think that it can be captured in a constant and dropped into an essay is merely to demonstrate that you haven't been to class or read the text. So, I really do want my students to think about problems in epistemology, but do so seriously when they do, and not to become paralyzed or go to graduate school to study epistemology further.

The second part is about flexing mental muscles. I may have mentioned that my students at an unnamed Syracuse-area college (which was not Syracuse University) seemed unfamiliar with the idea of thinking. That is, I would point to a sentence in the text, and asked what the author might have meant, and they would repeat the sentence back almost verbatim. I would read their essay drafts, and say, "this needs further clarification," and they would be unable to add anything at all. (This was multiple students, over the course of the semester.) I don't particularly care if they understand the ins and outs of Kant's epistemology or Nietzsche's critique of it - it would be nice, and probably helpful for them, but they're not philosophers - but I wonder how they process the news, or if they can even tell the difference between content and advertisement, information and opinion, or informed opinion and dogma. Epistemology matters; but as I said last time, it's not precisely Kant that I want you to learn.