Monday, February 18, 2019

Book Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Intuition is underappreciated. We like reams of repeatable data and validated statistics. As important as those are, they are perhaps less than half of the cognitive processing that we bring to problem solving. Of course, intuition is developed over time by experience that is informed by reason and tested by measurement. However, for the expert, whether a museum curator attributing an archaic statue or Marine Corps general repelling an invasion, intuition brings success. 

We all use it every day, especially when reading each other’s faces. Gladwell calls that “mind reading” because your face reveals your feelings—even if you try to hide them. It is “mind reading” also because making the face of an emotion triggers the same processes in the mind that external events would cause.
Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell,
Little, Brown and Co., 2005

Intuition also fails when it is under-informed. The classic “Pepsi Challenge” of the 1970s and 80s supposedly demonstrated that in a blind taste test, most people prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coke. And they did. But we do not drink beverages in single sips with blindfolds on. More to the point, the very average consumers had no training in tasting. Gladwell introduces us to the world of professional tasters. Through long training, they develop vocabularies and set of measures that are integrated into their percepts. They become deeply knowledgeable about food. For them, Oreos have ninety attributes of appearance, flavor, and texture. On a scale of 1 to 15, how slippery is your mayonnaise?

But experts can be wrong if their expertise is derived from the wrong measures. Professional audiences were unenthused with The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family.  Gladwell advocates for a musician named Kenna.  (You can find him on YouTube, of course.) Kenna can’t get air time. But people who know music want his. He burst into the nightclub scene, shot his own videos, and was pursued by producers. But his music does not fit the radio genres. I listened to half a dozen on YouTube, all very good and all over the map musically.

Intuition is not omnipotent. It will not overcome physical barriers of time and space. That is what leads to the continuing string of tragedies where the police over-react and kill an unarmed person who is not threatening them. Their intuition is destroyed by the high-speed chase, the words and actions of other officers. Alone, forcing themselves to stop, they perceive the small slices that say “this man is not dangerous.” In those cases of wrongful harm, the police more closely resemble the functional autistic who is more interested in a light switch than a face. They have shut down parts of their brain thus denying intuition the opportunity to inform.

Malcolm Gladwell is a very popular writer. I only found out about his works recently while re-watching episodes of NUMB3RS. His name and his book, Tipping Point, are dropped in the Season 1 story, “Sniper Zero.” He is clear, concise, conversational, and insightful. He is a synthesizer, drawing together different stories to create a new narrative.

That brings a caveat. The presentation is not rigorous. Cook County Hospital in Chicago treats hundreds to thousands of people each day, most of the indigent and therefore without good medical support. A common problem is the man complaining of a heart attack. It must be taken seriously, but often is not an infarction. Sorting them out takes resources and erring on the side of caution requires even more bed space (and expense). Dr. Brendan Reilly began creating a database of case histories to serve a guideline in diagnosis. Reilly based his work on a previous effort by Dr. Lee Goldman who developed a mathematical model for cardiac symptoms. But Reilly met resistance, of course, from the ER staff cardiologists who did not want to surrender their expertise to an algorithm. Says Gladwell, "The algorithm doesn't feel right." But is that not the point of the book? Why would their intuition be less authoritative? This is likely just a simple misstatement. But I take it as a signal that Gladwell is offering us an array of interesting facts united by a thematic hypothesis. 

On the upside, Gladwell takes a mechanistic approach to solving the problems of social discrimination. He tells of how women finally made it into the major symphony orchestras when blind auditions became standard practice. From another source entirely I learned that India uses this to preclude geographic, ethnic, and religious bigotry from interfering with university placement. Examinations are anonymized. This week, I will again be a judge in the Austin Energy Regional Science Festival. I think that the suggestion has merit but I am not sure how to implement it in our case.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

World War II Sweetheart Dance (2019)

We had a great time at the Texas Military Forces Museum Valentine’s dance. This year, we prepared by taking dancing lessons. I signed us up for membership and four Thursday nights of foxtrot with Austin Ballroom Dancing, a social club organized as a not-for-profit. In addition, we attended their open dances on alternate Saturday nights and also accepted an invitation to dance to a live band at a City of Austin senior center on Friday nights. It all helped. 

The evening was in 1940s style, with the Sentimental Journey Orchestra playing the music of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and others. They were fronted by The Memphis Belles trio. About a third of the 150 attendees were dressed in era style. The event included a silent auction and a “Heads or Tails” contest to win a ride in a tank and fire a howitzer at the next reenactment.  

America’s entry into World War II shifted our culture. By the end of the war, nearly a tenth (8.7%) of the total population was in the military. And that does not count those in the Red Cross, USO, and other support groups. 

World War II was brewing long before the UK and France declared war on Germany in response to the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The Fortified Forties followed the Thrifty Thirties. The worldwide economic downturn created an easy podium for demagogues of the left and right. Both sides declared that capitalism was dead. 

Leaders were everywhere. We all know the easy names: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco. Other dictatorships ruled in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Turkey was a one-party state especially tied to modernization and liberalization away from traditional Islamic culture. France proved that for them democracy was a failed experiment. In practice the French were embarrassingly cooperative with the Nazis until the success of D-Day made everyone a lifetime member of the underground. Adolph Hitler does not appear Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but Benito Hoover does, along with Mustafa Mond, Polly Trotsky, Lenina Crowne, and Bernard Marx. (For background on Huxley’s choices of character names based on Alfred Mond, Mustafa Atatürk, and others, see, for example, Shmoop here.) The future was collective. And the fact is that collectivism brings war. 

America gave the President a third term and the New Deal attempted broad government initiatives. However, American cultural traditions of individualism, self-assertion, private enterprise, and rule of law within a constitutional framework that promised both majority rule and individual rights were the stable foundation that withstood the shocks of war. (The American Political Tradition by Richard Hofstadter is reviewed here.)

That political tradition was necessarily accompanied by culture of innovation. The inventions of the 19thcentury easily led to utopian predictions of material progress and prosperity. However, ultimately, the American Century was defined by innovations in entertainment. Life has meaning when we have the liberty to pursue happiness. Winning World War II on the basis of our industrial capacity was necessary but not sufficient. Our cinema and music conquered the world. There was a war on, but the music was swing. Gershwin defeated Wagner.


Sunday, February 3, 2019


Coins were invented about 600 BCE, about 3000 years after money (as we understand it) was invented. Within three generations, by 500 BCE, coins had acquired most of the attributes that associate with them today. Perhaps first among them, both in time and importance, was carrying a message. As signifiers or semata, coins paralleled the ascendance of writing over speech to extend the width and depth of communication. 

During World War II, Canada included a patriotic message on its 5-cent coins: We win when we work willingly. The slogan was in Morse code, flush along the rim of the reverse. While not obvious, neither was it intended to be secret. Rather, the message was an element of the propaganda effort. Another wartime effort was Canada’s use of tombac, an 88-12 alloy of copper and zinc to replace nickel on the 5-cent coins of 1942 and 1943.
dots and dashes represent Morse Code
In the United States, the 5-cent nickel became one-third (35%) silver from 1942 to 1945. The story was that we needed the nickel for armor plate. In truth, we got our nickel from Sudbury, Ontario, and it was plentiful. The new nickels had a large Mintmark over Monticello on the reverse.  The fractional coinage (“small change”) of the United State and Canada delivered constant reminders to the general population.
Two coins the same size but of different metals.
Canada 5-cent nickel (left) and 5-cent tombac (right)
war time issues with Morse code message at rim.
In our time, the US “Native American” (Sacagawea) dollars for 2016 honor the Code Talkers. At first, during World War I, Native American soldiers worked as telephone operators because it was unlikely that Germans (who did know English) would know their languages. In addition, the Americans quickly adopted slang of their own to add a layer of obfuscation. 

World War II was a much larger and longer engagement. In 1943, the total population of the USA was 136.7 million, of whom 9.2 million were in the armed forces. Although American civilians who were ethnically Japanese were placed in concentration camps, their sons were allowed to join the armed forces (and fight in Europe). So, of course, the military tapped a new generation of Native American Code Talkers.

Although the Navajo are best known from books and a recent movie, in fact, they came from over 30 communities and societies: Cherokee Nation, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Choctaw Nation, Comanche Nation, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Crow Nation, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, Ho-Chunk Nation, Hopi Tribe, Kiowa Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Menominee Nation, Meskwaki Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Oneida Nation, Osage Nation, Pawnee Nation, Ponca Tribe, Pueblo of Acoma Tribe, Pueblo of Laguna Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Santee Sioux Nation, Seminole Nation, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (Sioux) Tribe, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Tlingit Tribe, Tonto Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe. (See the US Mint sales pages for special medals and medallions here.)
One dollar coin, tails, showing two army helmets and two eagle feathers
Reverse of US Mint 2016 Native American Dollar
honors the Code Talkers from two wars.
On the other side of the Atlantic the British were engaged in a “wizard war” against the Germans. Among their “boffins” were the codebreakers of Bletchley Park. The Imitation Game told the story of Alan Turing and his failed romance with Elisabeth Lowther Clarke (later Murray). Clarke was a brilliant mathematician, and an accomplished codebreaker. After the war, she took up a numismatics, largely as a result of her husband John Kenneth Murray’s collection of Scottish coins. In particular, several series of silver groats and gold “unicorns” were not well identified or sequenced as the weights and finenesses had changed during the reigns of James III and James IV. She figured it all out, publishing and delivering papers. (See “The Early Unicorns and the Heavy Groats of James III and James IV” in the British Numismatic Journal, Volume 40, Number 8, 1971 online here.)

For that work, the British Numismatic Society granted her a John Sanford Saltus Gold Medal in 1986. You can find a brief biography in Wikipedia, of course, but as Joan Clarke.  Lord Stewartby (Bernard Harold Ian Halley Stewart)one of her collaborators in the coinage of Scotland, wrote her obituary for the British Numismatic Journal Vol. 67 No. 13, pages 162-167, online here.)    

(See, also, my review of The Imitation Game with pictures of two computer security challenge coins in the E-Sylum newsletter of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society here.)


Monday, January 28, 2019

The Wise Men

Averell Harriman, Dean Acheson, and George Kennan were names that I grew up with, reading daily newspapers and weekly news magazines from the late 1950s through the late 1960s. I learned of the other three men—Robert Lovett, John McCloy, and Chip Bohlen—from this careful and objective though laudatory history. Isaacson and Thomas had established impressive bibliographies of their own before this collaboration. I found it engaging and informative.

William Averell Harriman and Robert Abercrombie Lovett grew up together because Lovett’s father, Robert Scott Lovett, was the chief counsel for railroad magnate E. A. Harriman. John Jay McCloy, Jr. and George Frost Kennan grew up poor. Their hard work took them to the Ivy Leagues and thence to the halls of power. Dean Gooderham Acheson met Averell Harriman at Yale. Charles Eustis “Chip” Bohlen inherited the fine social graces of his almost wealthy family and those skills took him to the Foreign Service where he met George Kennan. It is easy to perceive the six as symbolic of, if not identical with the Establishment (page 26). The popular catch-phrase “The Establishment” was coined by John Kenneth Galbraith speaking to a convention of the Americans for Democratic Action in 1966. But the privileged collective had long before enjoyed opposition from both the left and the right, liberals and conservatives, going back to Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Jackson and forward to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan (page 29). 
The Wise Men: Six Friends
and the World They Made 

by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas.
Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, 1986
We may try to make the best of our opportunities. That is a two-part engagement. Many were born to inherit great  opportunities. Not many made the most of them. Starting as children and continuing through their teenage years, Harriman and Lovett accompanied their fathers on inspection tours of the railroad. (When he reached the Pacific coast E. A Harriman saw no reason to stop, and took his family to Siberia. That fact would be a trump card played more than once when Averell Harriman was the U. S. Ambassador to the USSR.) The son of an Episcopalian bishop, Dean Acheson took it upon himself in 1911 to join a Grand Truck Pacific Railway work crew in northern Canada. Before the United States entered World War I, Acheson volunteered as a Navy ensign. Meanwhile, Bob Lovett was only in his freshman year at Yale in 1914 when he enlisted. He was graduated in absentia while serving in the Army Flying Squadron. (Thirty years later, he served as a War Department expert on air forces.) After his senior year at Yale, Chip Bohlen signed on a US Steel cargo ship as crewman. Later head of the World Bank, John McCloy first met the upper classes when he worked as a chore boy at resorts. Even the four who were born to wealth knew from personal experience the relationship between money and work. 

Each had their own political preferences. Most were Republicans by birth, but adapted themselves to serve the government through the long decades of Democratic Party ascendance from 1932 to 1980. They were internationalists who saw no profit in war and only losses in surrender. They were among the first to push US foreign policy out of isolation and into alliance with the United Kingdom and France. It is no surprise that Ivy Leaguers are Anglophiles, but, in addition Chip Bohlen’s mother was from Louisiana and he visited France as a child. (On the other side of the ledger, his father’s in-laws included the Krupps of Germany.) Individually and in concert, they were early to warn the world of Stalin and the USSR, even as their Yale and Harvard classmates were still enthralled with the “ten days that shook the world.” 

But it would be just as wrong to characterize them has “hardliners” as to brand them as “appeasers” which the radical right did, from the McCarthy era through the years of the John Birch Society, the Nixon presidency, and the Reagan Revolution. As bankers and lawyers—only Bohlen and Kennan were professional diplomats--they knew how to evaluate facts, measure risks, create and analyze logical arguments. They were willing to admit their mistakes, to cut their losses, to change course to avoid a collision. They knew that the world is not run by gentlemen, and “certainly the Kremlin was not.” (Page 327.) 

On February 22, 1946, while chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Kennan sent the 8000-word “Long Telegram” to Secretary of State George Marshall. It explained fully and succinctly the nature of the USSR and its relationship with the Western democracies.  Though it is discussed at some length (pages 352-356), it is never presented in full. You can find it online:
  • The Truman Library (here) where it is an image of a typewritten transcription
  • A modern typeface transcription at the Wilson Center (here)
  • A text-accessible PDF (here) from Nevada Technical Associates among other famous speeches.

“Marxist dogma, rendered even more truculent and intolerant by Lenin’s interpretation, became a perfect vehicle for sense of insecurity with which Bolsheviks, even more than previous Russian rulers, were afflicted. In this dogma, with its basic altruism of purpose, they found justification for their instinctive fear of outside world, for the dictatorship without which they did not know how to rule, for cruelties they did not dare not to inflict, for sacrifices they felt bound to demand. In the name of Marxism they sacrificed every single ethical value in their methods and tactics. Today they cannot dispense with it. It is fig leaf of their moral and intellectual respectability. Without it they would stand before history, at best, as only the last of that long succession of cruel and wasteful Russian rulers who have relentlessly forced country on to ever new heights of military power in order to guarantee external security of their internally weak regimes.” – The Long Telegram by George Kennan.

Successful in arguing for an immediate and full response in 1950 to North Korean aggression and its support from China, they nonetheless were less enthralled with McArthur’s posturing. Their experience in 1951 informed their opinions in 1965 when they pushed Pres. Johnson to increase US military action in Indo-China. But quickly, by 1966, they foresaw the inevitable American defeat ten years later. For that, they were vilified as defeatists. 

Yet, they continued to serve. Dean Acheson hated Richard Nixon, but honored the office of the Presidency as so few in that administration did. Acheson responded to President Nixon’s requests for advice and counsel. But Acheson had had the same relationship with President Roosevelt 40 years earlier. 

The choice of these six men as paradigms for the Establishment may be arbitrary. In their work, they formed friendships, alliances, and animosities with others of equal influence such as James Forrestal, Robert Oppenheimer, Lucius Clay, Harry Hopkins, and Paul Nitze. Their proteges included Henry Kissinger, Dean Rusk, and Robert McNamara who themselves were connected to still others, even to John Kenneth Galbraith. Thus, they were the Establishment and “the Architects of the American Century.” 


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Coffee at the Co-op: Tradition and Novelty

Traditional Marxism teaches that capitalist firms attempt to drive each other out of business by seizing markets. On the other hand, the Austrians point out that seldom are any two products identical to consumers. One of the best things about weekend shopping at the Wheatsville Co-op is meeting the vendors. Most are local. All are aligned to health, nutrition, and sustainable economics. This weekend, I met two coffee vendors. 

Catherine from Four Sigmatic with a Lion's Mane Mushroom
and Cory from Third Coast Coffee with (what else?) coffee.
"As a founding member of Cooperative Coffees, Third Coast Coffee directly imports coffee from small farmer cooperatives throughout Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Indonesia. We have gained mutually beneficial, long term relationships with our producer partners in the sixteen years of Cooperative Coffees' existence. Third Coast makes year-long commitments for our green coffee to ensure a reliable and steady supply of many varieties that we offer. 

"All of our coffees are certified Fair Trade and organically grown. The one exception is Colombian coffee from Fondo Paez, which is Fair Trade transitional, grown using organic methods and in the process of acquiring organic certification.

"We control each roast by hand, eye, and nose. Our roasting machines are lovingly maintained 12 kilo drum roasters, each designed and built by Diedrich Manufacturing in Sandpoint, ID. Constant care and attention keeps them reliable. We follow rigorous protocol, including set batch sizes for all roasts that guarantees the results we seek.

"We make drinking mushrooms (yes, we said drinking mushrooms) delicious and easy-to-do with our wide variety of superfood (and super-good-for-you) beverages. From Mushroom Coffees, to Matchas to Hot Cacao and multi-mushroom Blends… we have it all.

"We’re obsessed with the everyday magic of mushrooms like reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane — Helping you relax, be well, energize and support productivity. Enter your email for healthy recipes, tips and tricks, and learn more about the benefits of these amazing superfoods."


Awesome Austin Foods at the Wheatsville Co-op. 
Tofurky for Paleolithic Vegetarians 
The Hat Creek Pickle Company 
Fond Bone Broth 
Hot Dang Vegie Burger Mix
Sunday at the Co-op

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Atlatl

The throwing stick was invented about 30,000 years ago. It extends the arm giving force (as range and speed) to a spear. Used widely across North and South America, it also is known from Europe, but more widely throughout Indonesia and Australia. The Aborigines call it the woomera and it can be the core of a “Swiss Army Knife” that serves many purposes.  
A Dog named “Moose” and his Mistress with Atlatl
The distribution of the atlatl opens discussions that can lead down intellectual rabbit holes into speculative wonderlands. It was not well-known across all of Europe and finds are centered in France. The bow-and-arrow became the dominant distance weapon in the Old World, though the atlatl continued alongside it in America. The bow was not imported to or invented in Australia. 

The word atlatl comes directly from the language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl. Nouns end in (a)tl. Cocoa is xocolatl. The jaguar is the ocelotl. The dog is the coyototl. And, yes, out there, where the gods came from is the Atlantic ocean. Make of it what you will, because the distribution of the spear thrower seems to be from West to East, across the Pacific to the Americas. The truth may be that like cotton the atlatl was imported to the Old World from the New in prehistoric times.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Night of January 16th

Telling someone that you enjoy reading the works of Ayn Rand is different from admitting that your opinions are informed by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus or that you relax with William Faulkner. I recently worked with a team of a dozen technical writers. In fact, I was the only true technical writer on the team. The core group held MAs in technical writing from Texas State, but they were doing it just because it was a job that paid well. Another was a kindergarten teacher. Probably the most talented member of the team was an unpublished novelist. Of course, we talked about writing and literature. One of my colleagues said that he does not like Ayn Rand. “What have you read?” Nothing, he admitted, correcting himself to say, “I find that I don’t like the people who like Ayn Rand.” Up to that point, I thought that we had been getting along quite well.  Apparently not…

When Gerald Ford became President, I heard a radio program (NPR most likely), on which the interviewer asked the expert what Ford would bring to the Oval Office. The expert replied that from his long service in the House of Representatives where he had been elected Speaker, Ford learned that “to get along, you have to go along.” That advice has served me well these past 40 years. I am not much for getting along or going along, but I understand those who do. 

My primary motivation is at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy: self-actualization. That being as it may, I am not a recluse. I do not live in a cave in a forest. For me, the rewards in city life come from the anonymity of the division of labor: when you need a plumber, you don’t care who his cousin his, you just want the water line fixed. It may seem paradoxical, but the marketplace deeply engrains the personal ethics and moral behavior that makes socialization possible in the first place, and ultimately rewarding on all levels, physical, emotional, and spiritual. 

On the other hand, around the world most cultures are “high context” societies where who your cousin is makes a big difference. Spain, Sicily, Greece, Iraq, Iran, the Philippines... The “low context” societies are the advanced, industrial and now post-industrial, information-age leaders: the USA, Australia, NZ, and Canada, the UK especially the English, Scandinavia and Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and (oddly, perhaps) Israel. 

"The Weirdest People in the World?" is a paper published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, (2010), available online from the authors hereThese mainstream psychologists sought to demonstrate that most of the research being carried out to find “human nature” is flawed because the test subjects are usually university students or their children. They sent a dozen teams to non-industrialized locales to interview people by carrying out a variety of standard psychological games from simple optical illusions to more complex interactions such as Dictator and Ultimatum. Among their many findings was that the degree of market integration predicts how deeply individuals internalize their sense of fairness. Basically, we share because we want to. Other people share—when they do, which they might not at all—because they have to. 

“Crime in the city” is an easy topic of casual conversation. But the gangs of New York came from high context societies. The best narrative I know about crime in the city is the movie Family Business. Sean Connery plays Jessie McMullen who married an Italian. Their son, Vito, was played by Dustin Hoffman. Vito married a Jewish girl. Matthew Broderick played their son, Adam. Ethnic cleansing is impossible in the city. Gang wars in the city (these days, usually over drug markets) are carried out by Hispanic and African-American high context cultures. As they say, “It takes a village…” 

The Night of January 16th is a crime drama. It centers on a global financial fraud and includes a street hoodlum. What made the play popular was that the jury was drawn from the audience. Rand wrote two endings for the final act. A bad adaptation was created for the big screen, directed by William Clemens with a screenplay by Delmer Daves, Robert Pirosh, and Eve Greene.
“Though Rand was years away from articulating her own ideal, she had since childhood admired the individual who acts on his own judgments, defying social pressure. Thus the main characters in Night of January 16th are bold egoists who unapologetically seek the world’s rewards and pleasures for themselves.“Notably, however, this play’s heroes don’t embody Rand’s moral philosophy. ‘I do not think, nor did I think it when I wrote this play, that a swindler is a heroic character or that a respectable banker is a villain,’ she writes. ‘But for the purpose of dramatizing the conflict of independence versus conformity, a criminal — a social outcast — can be an eloquent symbol.’”  -- here.   
The screen adaptation mangled the plot. Names were changed for no apparent reason. Elements were added that sidetracked the integration of actions and motives which is an essential element of Ayn Rand's fiction.
“The story revolves around three people; Tycoon Bjorn Faulkner, who is being called upon by his board of directors to explain a missing $20,000,000; Kit Lane, his secretary who also has a personal interest; and Steve Van Ruyle, a sailor who has inherited a position on Faulkner's board of directors. Faulkner is (presumably) murdered, and Kit is falsely accused of the murder. Steve assumes the job of clearing her name.” --  “Van Ruyle attempts to prove Lane's innocence with fake evidence, but his ruse is discovered. The two flee with evidence from Faulkner's apartment, which they use to track down the mysterious Haraba. They trace him to a hotel in Havana, Cuba, where they discover that "Haraba" is a pseudonym being used by Faulkner, who has faked his own death. When Faulkner takes Lane captive, Van Ruyle rushes with police to Faulkner's room to rescue her. Faulkner is arrested, and Van Ruyle and Lane decide to get married.” – Wikipedia.
Ludwig Wittgenstein denied the validity of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. He wrote it in the trenches while in the Austrian army. His military service did not protect him when the Nazis took over. He was forced to liquidate his family inheritance into gold and deliver it to the government in return for permission to emigrate to the UK. While in England, he worked out a different set of problems and solutions. He was accused of attacking Karl Popper with a fireplace poker. It is irrelevant today that both men were closet homosexuals. 

But is possible to discuss Wittgenstein’s metaphysics and epistemology or Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, without having to answer for all of their philosophical errors or lifestyle foibles. Not so with Ayn Rand. She is a lightening rod. It was from a Theodore Sturgeon story that I learned that I am not the only one who falls in love where the lightening strikes.