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One little academic, quirky, solitary, peaceful, minding his own business in Konigsberg, Prussia, without benefit of tv or internet or large publishing firms or publicists or political activists or think tanks or even a car! Sitting alone in his home writing philosophy, teaching his classes at the university. Teaching lots and lots of young, impressionable kids at the university, chatting with the other professors at the university. Invisible to the rest of the world, barely getting his philosophical writing started before the age of 50. How could anyone like that make any difference to the world, the culture, Western philosophy as a whole, to policy in the United States hundreds of years later? How influential could one scholar be?
date 2001-04-02:23:43
now in bloom on my patio I am surprised and overwhelmed by the penetrating fragrance of the boronia. There are other flowers mixing with it right now; but I was shocked when the first single 1/4-inch flower opened and the scent from that tiny pink object wafted off the patio and filled the house. It's quite as strong as nightblooming jasmine (cestrum), but without the tendency to suffocate. When I got the tiny boronia (6 inches tall) a year and a half ago, its four small flowers seemed like they might have a little sweet fragrance, but I couldn't say for sure. Now I realize that the plant was just tired and downtrodden at the time. With combined chemical fog spewing out of the wisteria, pink jasmine, and alyssum, unwary neighbors don't have a chance. Traffic jams form in the parking lot as people are arrested by the cloud eminating from the patio. They comment loudly; if I'm in my outdoor office, they stop to chat, each offering their theories as to what plant it might be, though none of them have ever heard of a boronia before and prefer to insist that it is coming from something that I don't own. I think I've met more of my neighbors since the boronia opened than I've met in the entire four years I've lived here.

Others? Too many to describe. I simply list for the purposes of my garden almanac:

Just getting started this month


  • wisteria (pale lavender)
  • petunias (deep purple)
  • cistus (pink with maroon spots)
  • boronia (deep magenta)
  • pittosporum (white)
  • tea rose (orange)
  • navel orange (white)
  • calamondin (white)
  • honeysuckle (white with yellow)
  • brunfelsia (purple fades to blue fades to white)

Just color

  • vinca (blue)
  • felicia (blue and yellow)
  • Martha Washington geranium (maroon and black)
  • fuchsia
  • epidendrum (yellow)
  • bougainvillea Raspberry Ice
  • yellow kalanchoe
  • rhaphiolepsis

Still in bloom from last month


  • bouvardia (white)
  • pink jasmine
  • hyacinth (pink)
  • matthiola (stock, pink with white)
  • alyssum (white)
  • camellias (Kramer's Supreme, Sport, white with pink border)

Just color

  • bougainvillea San Diego Red
  • pink kalanchoe
  • hibiscus (yellow, orange)
  • impatiens (neon pink, purple, salmon, red&white candystripe)
  • alyogene
  • primroses (purple, yellow, pink, red, orange)
  • ivy geranium (white with red scribbles)
  • euryops daisy (all yellow)
  • lotus (orange with red and yellow)
  • tea trees (white and deep red)
  • azaleas (purple, pink with red border, salmon)
  • Persian nightshade
  • potato vine (white)
  • cyclamen (white, magenta, pink, white with magenta border)
  • tuberous begonia (orange)

In full bud

  • freesia (all colors)
  • pomogranite
  • gardenia Radicans
  • gardenia Mystery
  • feijoah
  • chrysanthemum (dusty maroon, white)
  • columnea (orange)

Expected next month

  • bouvardia (pink and white candystripe)
  • hibiscus syracuse (fluffy white)
  • distictus riversii (reddish purple with yellow center)
  • plumbago (sky blue)
  • stargazer lily (an early one from last two years)
  • South African jasmine (white)
  • gladiolus (all colors)
  • bougainvillea Rosenka (swirled orange/rose/yellow)
  • bougainvillea Texas Dawn (pale pink deepens to fuchsia)
  • mandevillea (white with yellow center)
on being a woman Yow! Do I ever have an earfull to dump about speed seduction! Had a look at Ross Jeffries's site, read one of the Playboy articles, went YIKES, and started an essay. Everything starts an essay with me. That's because I'm a woman. You know how we are. We can't shut up. concepts without words, words make up sentences, sentences represent propositions which is the basic component of arguments which are the province of reason...

No time for that now. There are flowers to discuss!
capitalism New Topic: Being a good capitalist is more than just not buying products and thus failing to "vote" for something one doesn't like. It includes telling a company why one has a problem with their services, so they know what to fix. It also includes telling them when one is especially pleased with them. I write letters for both reasons all the time, and decided I should keep them on file. Here, a complaint.

Letter to DiscoverCard Services:

Hi! I have a number of suggestions about the web site, which I find difficult to use. Since
I write programs like this all the time, I know the problems are easy to fix.

The login page ( took NINETY SECONDS to load--I timed it. It really should be impressed upon the design department that cardholders are not logged directly into the server, as the designers are when they are working and reloading the pages, and that many of us are still using modems rather than cable access or dsl. In my case, my modem in a brand new machine is 56000, but my phone company only supplies 28800 in my area. I shouldn't have to subscribe to cable or move my residence simply in order to use your web site.

From the login page, when you make a mistake (such as putting in the wrong password), and have to hit BACK, your account number is deleted. You have to fill in the whole number again. You may have considered it OK to leave the program like this, because giving out your card number is a security risk. But I can't see the risk in this case. While it is true that anyone could get hold of my discover card number, isn't that the point of having a password? In fact, lots of people DO have my card number--I give it out every time I go to the store. So why bother deleting that, and making me type it again? Or, rather I should say, why is this data not saved, to spare the user having to type it in again?

From the login page, you can't type your credit card number with hyphens or spaces. This makes it extremely difficult to catch errors. My eyes are human; I am not a computer. I need the hyphens, or spaces, or SOMETHING to allow me to "chunk" the data. And of course, if I make a mistake in that 16-digit number, the page deletes the whole thing when I go back and I have to try again. Because this is an _easy_ thing to fix for the programmer (it's merely a matter of substituting for any non-numeric character--if the user types in "234-567", the program can simply remove the '-' and the result will be "234567"), it is the _programmer's_ job to remove hyphens or spaces and then check the resulting number to see if it matches the records. It's just silly to ask the _user_ to do this, with a piece of data this large.

On the login page (, after you type in the password, you should either be able to hit RETURN and have it pass the data OR you should be able to hit TAB to go to the LOGIN button and then hit RETURN. You can't do either of these. If you hit RETURN, nothing happens. If you hit tab, it skips two buttons (Login, and Password Reset) and takes you, inexplicably, to the deskshop login. You MUST use the mouse, and this takes time and is just bad design.

I think if the site loaded and operated faster, these design flaws wouldn't bother me. It's the combination of the agonzingly slow loading and the design flaws that make me bother to type all this out. Yes, this took time, but I hope that if I complain enough all over the web, programmers will eventually get the message.

(I received a response to this letter within one day, saying that the problem had been escalated to the programming department. This pleased me.)
wildlife There's a puddle on the patio behind the lemon tree that lingers, reduced in size, as long as two days after the last watering or rain. A song sparrow has discovered it, and comes to bath in it daily. I hear him fluttering in through the lattice, and I go still except for typing fingers. He bounces around the garden a bit, checking me out from all angles to make sure I really am a rock formation, then slips down to his private bath and splashes noisily. Suddenly he catapults to the top of the shade house, always keeping an eye on me, and shakes and preens his wet rumpled feathers at his leisure. Later in the day, I'll hear him singing about the territory he owns.

Aphids, I just read in the Western Garden Problem Solver do not bother to lay eggs: they are livebearers. Doesn't that just put ALIEN to shame. Moreover, they do not bother with sexual immaturity: they are born pregnant. That explains how they are able to appear in droves overnight though most do not fly, why the groups of them always look like little families with specimens of all sizes, and why the ladybugs can eliminate them just as quickly as they appear--no eggs sitting around to hatch later after the cleaning crew goes through.
objectivist doctrine reconsidered I feel really, really wonderful right now. I have so much work to do that if I thought about it I would be scared to death. But unlike this winter, when all I could think about was How Much I Had To Do In How Little Time, I'm back in the moment, loving the work, having a blast. I resisted certain ideas, certain ways of being, simply because before I was even able to use language it was given in my family that there were certain things of which we were incapable, and certain fates to which we had to acquiese.

It is hard for me to remember now what that was like.

I'm thrilled to be working on the propositions paper. I feel like I've made so many connections that they cannot be suppressed any longer. What is it like, to be an intellectual, to be a philosopher rather than someone who sometimes thinks philosophically? I think it is just this state of being, when I know that this is what I do, what I am, how I think, how I love; when I know that there is nothing that gives me more pleasure, makes me feel more alive, than being hot on the trail of some discovery, great or small, consequential or not, that will give me more of what I crave: connections, understanding, but most importantly, self-awareness and self-efficacy. It is the thrill of working hard but feeling like I'm just having fun. When I have this feeling, I know that there are people who are ready to ask why I am wasting my time with such nonsense. And this too, tells me what it is like to be a philosopher: it is to see the importance in realms unknown to others. I can't really complain, because it is not theirs to comprehend--how could they, without my explanation? Their fields are different from mine. Nevertheless, they will feel the results of my work in their own fields, because philosophy is that sort of discipline. It affects all realms. The closer it gets to the truth, the more influential it is.

This is one reason that Kant scares the hell out of objectivists, I think. No doctrine could become so influential, without a multitude of scholars and academics picking up on it, extending it, mulling it over, and using it. And no doctrine could get such attention, without being close to the truth.

Stephen was once arguing with me that Kant was deliberately evil, and the proof of that was that he got the wrong answers in every single inquiry. He came so close, and was clearly smart, and yet got the wrong answers. I can't remember now whether Stephen purported that Kant slipped up at the very last second on purpose, or whether he was just so evil that his evilness blinded him to the truth that would set humanity free, or what. That's not important here. Here, what is striking is the idea that Kant came close to the truth, not what Stephen thought prevented him from getting all the way there.

Just a solitary guy, sitting alone in Konigsburg, minding his own business, coming close to truth--and look at the influence he had! It is incredible, from one cynical perspective: how should one little academic have so much impact with his false ideas? But from a much happier, more well-adjusted, more human, more organic, more bottom-up perspective, it's really quite natural that the people who approach the closest to truth will be the ones who in the end change the world, even if no one is paying them the huge sums of money that they could be making selling pre-cut raw frozen cookie dough or electronic bulls for indoor rodeos.

That Kant didn't arrive at The Truth (or write Atlas Shrugged) also shouldn't surprise us. Newton didn't do quantum mechanics or relativity theory; his not doing so can be seen, cynically, to have held humanity back--to have created great evil, even; after all, if Newton has just gotten his act together, millions of people wouldn't have had to die on account of the lack of nuclear power. But there are levels of development, and Kant has not set us back, on net, when we look at the kind of thought he's made possible.

And then the question naturally arises: If one little academic sitting alone in Konigsberg, teaching his philosophy courses at the university and otherwise minding his own business, could have so much influence on the world, allegedly from Marx to Hitler to the average person in the street, then how might one go about spreading Objectivist ideas and methods? That's a rhetorical question, of course. We all know exactly where this power lies: at the University of [your school here].

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