Theme Updated and Customized – Fire When Ready

Fire When ReadyI, perhaps for the last time, switched and customized the theme here at the blog, using WordPress twenty twelve as a base. I tried to get rid of as many barriers as I could, experience-wise, especially if you on a mobile device. There are more details on my UX portfolio page, for those of you so inclined. Let me know of any weird things you may come across in the comments.

Ayn Rand Should Be On the New Ten Dollar Bill

Story here, if you haven’t caught wind yet.

Right now there are obvious choices being talked about: Susan B. Anthony (universal suffrage is silly), Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of a former head bureaucrat) or local favorite: Rachel Carson (malaria lover).

I personally have little interest in who is picked save for one reason. However, these items listed below might appeal to the sensibilities of normal people who consider it important.

  1. She loved America, a lot.
  2. She loved money, a lot.
  3. She was an example of the Great American Dream.
  4. She wrote books set in America that are popular to this day.
  5. She was heavily rooted in Aristotle, whose philosophy helped form the basis for the West’s intellectual and political tradition.
  6. She became famous for something other than good looks.

I’d like to see Ayn Rand on the bill, or at least seriously considered, because the ensuing tornado of outrage storming through social media accounts would be terrifying and entertaining. The emotional froth would spill in from nearly every corner of the Internet, from people of every political and moral persuasion—no one really likes Rand all that much except for objectivists, and only place you’ll find an objectivist is under a rock or somewhere alone, taking themselves very, very seriously.

EDIT: Not that I considered this an original idea, but I didn’t think Time would have written about the same idea yesterday, and the top Google result for “ayn rand $10” is another blogger. Can’t wait for the TwitterInstaBook sphere to catch wind and rev up the outrage engines.

The Serfs May Not Talk Amongst Themselves

Serfs in Santa Monica can’t make agreements with other serfs to have them stay over their house because of arbitrary rules…rules that were created by lords who have nothing to do with the potential transaction. From Forbes:

The Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica has instituted the nation’s toughest regulations on short-term rentals like Airbnb. Starting today, hosts will have to live on the property during the renter’s stay, register for a business license and collect the city’s 14 percent occupancy tax.

The city estimates that this will shut down about 1,400 of the 1,700 short-term rental listings – about 80 percent – in this upscale beach town and major tourist destination, population about 92,500.

Let this be a lesson to us other serfs: some conversations and exchanges of money are verboten by the lords of the manor.

Xenoblade Time of Day Desktop Backgrounds

A very non-serious post. I scrounged up from different sources these three desktop backgrounds that feature the intro screen for Xenoblade Chronicles, that shows the different times of day. I had to do some Photoshop work on them to get the positioning, proportions, files size, and colors mostly coordinated between pictures. I think they’re aesthetically pleasing if you like sci-fi yet have no concern for the game itself, or video games in general, and it fits nicely into my latest obsession with clouds.

You can download the zip file of all three right here, or just “right-click > save as” on the images below.

Useless personal details: I have all three in random rotation on my Windows 7 machine at work, on my three monitors, though it fits ideally on my main monitor, a nice Dell P2414H in landscape mode, on the “center” picture position. I have the same monitor but in portrait orientation (easier to see lengthy vertical code), and the photos fit with a lot of white space at the top and bottom. I also use my laptop monitor and the positioning cuts off the top and bottom, almost like it’s zoomed in. All three are at the highest resolution: the Dells are at 1920 x 1080 and 1080 x 1920, while the laptop is at 1366 x 768. My main concern was not having the pictures stretched out of proportion on any of the monitors, a state of affairs that would kick my mild OCD into overdrive.

xenoblade_desktop_day

xenoblade_desktop_dusk-dawn

xenoblade_desktop_night

An Excerpt – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #9

“Digression is the soul of wit. Take the philosophic asides away from Dante, Milton or Hamlet’s father’s ghost and what stays is dry bones.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Hello all! Despite the lack of emails the last month or so, things haven’t been quiet regarding Pale Blue Scratch. A week ago I submitted my draft for editing to Jill Domschot, so the weeks leading up to that was full of head-down key-tapping at Starbucks or on my front porch. Western Pennsylvania is in that climatological sweet spot of the year where it hasn’t gotten hot or humid enough outside to be unbearable.

However, this is not a simple status-of-the book email. A sample chapter of Pale Blue Scratch is now up in the spring 2015 edition of Common Oddities – Spring 2015. It’s titled “The Flights at Bridge Zero” and there’s something of a spoiler in it, so be warned. There’s a pdf and an html version on that page, but note that the html bears the incorrect title–another warning!

More to come.

Physical Limits

This article raises some interesting questions. How far should a scientific discipline go in its theories of “the possible?” before it stops being a science?

For all it’s been romanticized, no one mentions the study of science can be an exhausting rat race with professional jealousies and money grabs. I’m willing to believe that half of the body of pseudo-scientific theories are scientists generating attention with the ultimate end of securing more of both of those things.

Everyone wants to be in the spotlight in some form or another. Why would scientists be any different?

A few months ago in the journal Nature, two leading researchers, George Ellis and Joseph Silk, published a controversial piece called “Scientific Method: Defend the Integrity of Physics.” They criticized a newfound willingness among some scientists to explicitly set aside the need for experimental confirmation of today’s most ambitious cosmic theories — so long as those theories are “sufficiently elegant and explanatory.” Despite working at the cutting edge of knowledge, such scientists are, for Professors Ellis and Silk, “breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical.”

Whether or not you agree with them, the professors have identified a mounting concern in fundamental physics: Today, our most ambitious science can seem at odds with the empirical methodology that has historically given the field its credibility.

Stop Trying to Make the World a Better Place

If you’re ever in a position to “do good” for a large amount of people, take stock of the people who would make this happen. You may find you’ve been airdropped into the middle of unsavory individuals of questionable character.

Some brutal plainspeak from abolishgovernmentnow.com:

You are the selfish ones. You care nothing about the people who you ask the government to take from. You pretend it’s for the good of the people who are allegedly being helped, but it’s not, because they aren’t being helped, they are being hurt further. It’s about you and what you want. Your desire to feel like a good person. You’re not a good person. Asking the government to steal from some people to allegedly help other people doesn’t make you a good person. It makes you a bad person.

The Occident Is Doomed

Back in my day, I had an outspoken atheist professor who said at the start of every semester that if we didn’t like something in his class: “Tough shit. Suck it up or leave.” I didn’t care because he was funny and was good at learnin’ me logic and philosophy, and I actually got to know him better after taking more and more classes.

Never once did it ever enter my mind that I should feel uncomfortable with being nearly targeted directly in class at times. Even if I was uncomfortable, the rhetorical tools to complain about it simply didn’t exist, and more importantly the outrage culture of social media was almost decades away. Truly, it was a suck it up or leave situation.

And then there’s this.

See, some of the myths Ovid recounts involve sexual violence. Zeus’ daughter Persephone (aka Prosperina), for instance, is kidnapped, raped, and taken as a bride by Hades, king of the underworld. The op-ed writers suggest this ancient Greek and Roman myth is too triggering to be taught in today’s classroom:…

It’s really a symptom, not a root cause, of decline, but a culture of increasing sissiness is going to reach mission-critical defective status rapidly.

Bad Guys and Ancient Knowledge

I‘ve come to appreciate writers that don’t characterize immoral actors in their work as complete devils. Things that are considered immoral now, but commonplace in past times, is often depicted as being perpetrated by people of ill-character and worth. I’m willing to believe people who perpetrated bad “institutions” (nearly everyone) in the past were normal folk going along with the times. They were—just as we are today, and to a much greater degree thanks to technology—a participant in the brute, unavoidable, Rock of Gibraltar-slamming-force of social conditioning. This is why I think some people like a modern “bad guy” in a story more than a protagonist. The protagonist will be working off a template towards a goal; we know what he’s going to do and why. The bad guy, with all of his modern social conditioning speaking against his motivations, has to have a reason for his antagonizing, so his motivations are often times more thoughtful. Spreading good feels are enough for an audience to warm to a protagonist, but his opponent (not always thoroughly immoral, if a good writer has his hand in it) has a bigger burden to fulfill.

Somewhat related: you’re going to get a greater level or degree of truth from the people who are a bit “off” all the way up to some of the more outlying “dangerous” individuals. The reason is clear if you just listen to someone’s words when they parrot off a template belief system with rhetoric/language—i.e., anything that closely resembles something from programmed media, from the earliest radio commentaries up to and including clickbait article phenomenon—they’re really not going to be saying much. All that talk was crafted to avoid as much as possible uncomfortable but potentially useful elements of knowledge: paradox, contradiction, socially unacceptable language, etc. To fit in we avoid crimethink by the nature of social cohesion and order.

Here’s a good mental exercise that doubles as a quick and dirty test. Take the sentence beginning: “In this day and age,” and append to that any sort of belief or convention that would make sense after that phrase. Some of the more common conclusions to that sentence that spring to mind could possibly have its root in erroneous modern thinking—thinking that’s been sprouted into a nation’s consciousness only after. There’s a reason why people thought what they thought in the past, and it’s probably an epistemically “good” reason. Attributing “wrong” beliefs to the disembodied catch-all of “ignorance” is dismissive. The common ancient man may have not known “what we know now”, which for many of us amounts to surface knowledge of about a thousand disparate things, but what they did know they may have known very deeply and intimately. What are some of the things that they could have known in this manner?

When you have weirdos with wifi access and a Blogspot account, you’re going to get a shotgun-spray of crimethink, some of which is going to be truthful, mixed in with a lot of their personal preferences and cruft presented as truth. It can be easily parseable with a good dose of clear thinking, but how many of us are willing to do that? It might be difficult but the option of completely ignoring their claims because they aren’t doubleplusgood is the worse option.