Nikola Tesla Was A Weird Guy

From My Inventions (free pdf here):

I was about twelve years old when I first succeeded in banishing an image from my vision by willful effort, but I never had any control over the flashes of light to which I have referred. They were, perhaps, my strangest experience and inexplicable. They usually occurred when I found myself in a dangerous or distressing situation, or when I was greatly exhilarated. In some instances I have seen all the air around me filled with tongues of living flame. Their intensity, instead of diminishing, increased with time and seemingly attained a maximum when I was about twenty-five years old. While in Paris, in 1883, a prominent French manufacturer sent me an invitation to a shooting expedition which I accepted. I had been long confined to the factory and the fresh air had a wonderfully invigorating effect on me. On my return to the city that night I felt a positive sensation that my brain had caught fire. I saw a light as tho a small sun was located in it and I past the whole night applying cold compressions to my tortured head. Finally the flashes diminished in frequency and force but it took more than three weeks before they wholly subsided. When a second invitation was extended to me my answer was an emphatic NO!

These luminous phenomena still manifest themselves from time to time, as when a new idea opening up possibilities strikes me, but they are no longer exciting, being of relatively small intensity. When I close my eyes I invariably observe first, a background of very dark and uniform blue, not unlike the sky on a clear but starless night. In a few seconds this field becomes animated with innumerable scintillating flakes of green, arranged in several layers and advancing towards me. Then there appears, to the right, a beautiful pattern of two systems of parallel and closely spaced lines, at right angles to one another, in all sorts of colors with yellow-green and gold predominating. Immediately thereafter the lines grow brighter and the whole is thickly sprinkled with dots of twinkling light. This picture moves slowly across the field of vision and in about ten seconds vanishes to the left, leaving behind a ground of rather unpleasant and inert grey which quickly gives way to a billowy sea of clouds, seemingly trying to mould themselves in living shapes. It is curious that I cannot project a form into this grey until the second phase is reached. Every time, before falling asleep, images of persons or objects flit before my view. When I see them I know that I am about to lose consciousness. If they are absent and refuse to
come it means a sleepless night.

Using jQuery To Translate Websites

mtes_translated

If you would permit me a wholly web development-related post, I recently finished a translate jQuery script for my friends’ charity site, Mission to El Salvador. Technically, the script doesn’t translate the English to Spanish, but it replaces the English text and (sometimes) HTML markup.

I was forced to do it this way because WordPress isn’t really set up for different “versions” its pages. I’m sure there may be a plugin to help with that but I’m sure this was easier. The main advantage is that there’s no page reload—when you click on the language flag the translation is instant. Since the theme we use, DonateNow, already calls in jQuery, I didn’t have to worry about adding more load time. The file itself adds 65k.

I also added a cookie for the translation preference, so that your selection is remembered as you navigate through the site, and if you close the browser out. I’ve never used cookies before but the cookie scripts I found at Quirksmode worked very well for my purposes.

There was some schlepping I had to do with the content, and I probably could’ve leveraged a unique class that’s given to every page. In order to do that I would have to use regEx and I generally avoid that when I can. To save time, if you’re going from English to Spanish, in some cases I could grab the English content before switching to Spanish, set a variable, and redeploy the variable value if the user switches back over to English. The variable value is then switched out with the Spanish content.

There’s no upkeep except for updating the “Recent Blog Post” content on the lower left of the index page. Whenever a new blog post is added I would just have to change a few numbers and a whole line. Nothing huge. The blog posts, by the way, are translated with Google Translate, so there’s no script updates needed in that area. There are probably some bugs in there still but the majority of the site passes.

For those interested, the .js file is here: translate_MTES.js.

Addendum to “Universal Sufferage” Post

One additional thought related to this post.

The idea of universal suffrage as an absolute is a strange one if you are one to consider the state as a morally legitimate entity. I, for one, do not believe it is, so this argument is moot but I’m arguing this on a statist’s logical terms.

If the state is a legitimate apparatus and comprised of moral agents that can contract with others (i.e., citizens), then universal suffrage is immoral unless those in government power agree to it. Forcing the government—if that were all possible—to enter into a contract on terms with which they do not agree, without full consent of their will, is immoral in the same way forced labor is immoral; a slavery, not matter how “soft” or in which direction it is aimed, is still slavery.

Forced association through law is common and accepted in America, but the idea of a representative democracy is so logically convoluted that arguing this point is just a further avenue of confusion if you keep chasing it.

What I Am Working On

I was tagged by Jill Domschot, who wrote Anna and the Dragon (read my review here), to write a post on what I’m working on. I barely talk about current book stuff so I badgered asked her to tag me when she was soliciting to be badgered asked for participants on Facebook.

1. What am I working on?
The one sentence summary, as written on the “A book I’m writing” link above:
A chainsmoking nun and her reluctant protege seek out a fledgling time travel technology and its exiled inventor, in alternate-history San Francisco.

The period is early 19th century with a subtle Wild West patina, taking place in the Bay Area at a university. There’s a few different cultures that have settled there: Roman Catholic, Scandinavian/Northern European, Franco-Arabic (a la Algeria), in addition to the native tribes that were in the area already.

The “alternate” event that happened in the past (not saying what it is) started a chain of events which seem entirely plausible to me. Part of the end result of those events is that technology was able to develop much more rapidly compared to the history of our world.

There’s also a deaf one-armed man with a large following who doesn’t seem quite right in the head. It all sounds very gimmicky but it’s quite normal as far as alt-history novels go.

As a kind of brain dump here’s a list of books/movies/TV series that I think help describe it: The Man Who Was Thursday, Children of Men, Firefly (series and movie), The Time Machine, Anthem, Escaflowne (series and movie), The Velveteen Rabbit (not a joke), The War Against Miss Winter

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It’s not YA, it’s not dystopian—it originally was the latter but I couldn’t make it work with the actual story without it becoming derivative. One protagonist is a female who carries weapons but she’s not young nor a “badass.” Despite the time machine element there’s not much of a science-fiction presence. If anything it’s a light mystery with a good measure of philosophical navel-gazing via the dilemma of the senses vs. natural philosophy (“science”) vs. religious belief. I don’t know a tidy word to describe that. Regardless, I’m not receptive to current book trends to know if this sets itself apart, so this is all conjecture.

Fun fact: There’s a perfect quote I plan on using for the beginning but it has two very useless, awkward adverbs in it that really kill it for me. I may not use it because of that.

3. Why do I write what I do?
This question makes little sense but I’m assuming it means “Why do I write what I write?” I think it’s because I see so many disparate things in other books or movies that I like that combining them all into one handy package seems more efficient. When it comes to philosophy I’m still at the amateur level; I just know the basics and maybe then some.

The parts of the narrative that work through dilemmas are really ones I had worked though personally, or ones that I’m still working through. There is a danger in doing that because one can reduce characters to mere mouthpieces, or ramble too much, or risk turning a story into a didact, and I didn’t want to waste readers’ time with too much thinky and not enough doey. I’m still working on mitigating those risks.

4. How does my writing process work?
There’s no magic. I just write when I can. For a short spell I used to go to a coffee shop one night a week to write, but that fell off my schedule because of “real life.” There were a lot of collegiate kids there doing the same thing, so the atmosphere was conducive to studying and quiet conversation rather than airing that pent-up whinefest about your iPhone.

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I’m tagging:
Katherine Coble – I feel bad because somehow Facebook unsubscribed me from her updates and I didn’t notice until she commented there that she wanted to be tagged. Her blog is here. She should write more on her blog but that’s my preference.

Ed Hurst – the only pastor-type blogger that I really care about these days, even if I don’t agree with him on everything (if you agree 100% with someone, they’re not saying much of anything). He’s written plenty of free books you can check out here.

Mark Rivett – Don’t know if he has a blog but here’s his Amazon author page. He’s a fellow pixel jockey who works a few rows down from me, and I have the pleasure of sneaking in writing talk with him and hearing about his zombie book when it’s convenient.

Addendum To “Correct Religion” Post

See here for the original post. To clear up any confusion, it’s important to make the distinction between gnostic and agnostic atheism. Gnostic atheists—the specific ones I addressed in the post—specifically claim knowledge of God’s non-existence. I take “knowledge” in the vaguely epistemic sense. Agnostic atheists claim a non-belief in deities but are open to possible evidence to defeat their non-belief, similar to “friendly atheists” who claim no knowledge or belief in the supernatural but allow for others to justifiably claim knowledge of the opposite. The agnostic/friendly atheist position is far more reasonable if we are going by the current trend of a posteriori, “show me evidence of God”, criteria for true religious belief. Gnostic atheism is almost always inherently contradictory since it claims knowledge via means that are a priori and non-scientific.

“How Do You Know Your Religion Is the Correct One?”

It’s a common question but there’s a lot of philosophical assumptions behind it, much like the loaded question logicians have pointed out. One has to take a step back to really address it properly. Julie Borowski, who isn’t much of a skeptic from what I can see, asked this on her personal Facebook page. I answered but I made sure to really think it through:

Personal, revelatory, non-falsifiable, a priori, properly basic knowledge of metaphysical truths.

A more accurate question could be, posed to a non-fallibillistic atheist: how could one know if all religions are completely false?

Concerning the first sentence, if you’re interested, look some of those terms up if they are unclear. Wikipedia is okay for a start but also try Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

To make it simpler: statements about religious truths—not just religious belief—can only be known as true to the individual person making the statement.

I asked that last question because religious belief allows for degrees of truth in considering other ones; Islam overlaps with Christianity, which overlaps with Hinduism, which overlaps with Buddhism, which overlaps with Zoroastrianism. If you consider one religion as the true one, then it’s reasonable and even logically mandatory to say every other religious belief system has a degree of truth in it, some greater than others. Pick any form of theism, put in front of you, shine a light on it, and you’ll see the shadow of all the other ones you rejected being cast onto it.

The “proof” is that an overwhelming number of people in the world have had a sense of the supernatural. If we’re talking materialist reasoning here, the burden of proof is on the non-fallibillistic (gnostic) atheist to demonstrate how all of them are completely mistaken.

EDIT: An addendum to this post is here.

Links of Possible Relevance, Part 8

I’m currently vacationing in Massachusetts, home to Elizabeth Warren and her corporo-fascism.

A new Cheerios commercial portrays a competent dad. Interesting for its novelty but especially attention-starved social justice warriors are going to Tumblr the new paradigm.

The Folly of Scientism – “Advocates of scientism today claim the sole mantle of rationality, frequently equating science with reason itself. Yet it seems the very antithesis of reason to insist that science can do what it cannot, or even that it has done what it demonstrably has not.”

“Free Market” Doesn’t Mean “Pro-Business”

“‘…Jimmie John’s bread is baked in the store every morning to give it a fresh and unique taste, whereas Chairman Mao Zedong of China exterminated over 45 million people.’ said Dr. Potamkin.”

Have any rightist dorks come across this and tried to make something out of it?

A band I don’t care about doesn’t take the Bible literally, just like 99% of all Christendom throughout history. The question is: in what way is not literal?

Three Reasons Why Private Property Is Essential for Human Flourishing. This is just common sense and a basic understanding of human behavior, but putting it in (good) economics terms doesn’t hurt.

Suffer(age) the Little Children

Vox Day posted recently about female suffrage. Talking about “their votes are equally incompatible with the long-term national interest as the other classes of current non-voters”:

This can be done using a variety of metrics, including what Shelles describes as another possibility to the only way. Just to give one example, if the reason children are not permitted to vote is due to their limited time preferences, a comparison could be made between children’s time preferences, women’s time preferences, and men’s time preferences. If women’s time preferences were determined to be more akin to those of children than those of men, that would be a clear justification for denying the vote to them.

I won’t pretend to know the history of progressive suffrage but I can make a few armchair inferences. There was probably a reason why women and other demographics were denied the act of voting (it’s not a “right” at all—I’ll explain in a future post), and it’s not because of patriarchal oppression. What we call “patriarchy” was/is most likely just division of labor that developed to ensure survival and gene propagation for the tribe or family. Men were trained for outward, wilderness-facing labor since they seemed more suited for it, and women were trained for inward, domestic-facing labor since they seemed more suited for it. Leftoids/Marxists have an intense dislike of division of labor so it’s understandable why it doesn’t enter into their reasoning much, hence the oppression narrative enters.

But I think Vox gets it wrong here, if he is concerned about national long-term interests. A better metric would simply grant voting privileges to fee-simple property (real estate) owners. The reason for this is that long-term property ownership would be compatible with long-term time preferences, and would qualify as legitimate voterhood. Too, property owners would be far less likely to vote for something against their own interests, and thus owners’ habits would coincide with whole-nation interests.

I’m assuming that certain laws of human behavior apply here, since bad real estate ownership eventually leads to no ownership at all. In other words, a fool and his(her) money(land) are soon parted. If House of the Seven Gables and O’ Pioneers! are accurate descriptors of times past*, there certainly would be legitimate female votership available, not to mention any anecdotal evidence of such a situation.

Final observation, which is point of the preceding blather: if long-term time preferences, demonstrated through fee-simple real estate ownership, are the gold standard for determining legitimate votership, it makes sense that some children could become legitimate voters. This seems absurd, since we know how children of a certain age are, and because we are raised with cultural and political standards that treat (I mean, we call them “minors”) with a strange manner of limbic, pre-civilizational a-humanity.

Instead of using bare age, a stable, mostly culturally, homogenized community left to itself would use a person’s raw cognitive ability to determine real ownership. This, I think, would generally work itself out; cultures have their own rites of passage into adulthood (none of this adolescence nonsense). It’s in a community’s best interest to confer adulthood on those that are ready, and today, what we consider “teenagers”—also known as “old children”—are biological, mental adults. The fact they are infantilized way past what is mandated skews the data. It’s not a perfect metric but it’s miles more accurate than using the sledgehammer of 18 years to nail everyone into adulthood by default. In the situation Vox outlines, using true real estate ownership, not the sex of the voter nor their age, is a more accurate metric for determining voterhood.

* This is something of a joke but they are in my mind since I recently read the latter and I’m nearly done with the former. Fictional narratives aside, the law of statistics basically demands female ownership of property as an demonstrable actuality.

EDIT: Addendum here.

The Cockamamie Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889

While reading The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier, I came across one of the earliest forms of stupidheadedness in the American government, concerning property:

On March 3, 1889, [President] Harrison announced the government would open the 1.9 million-acre tract of Indian Territory for settlement precisely at noon on April 22. Anyone could join the race for the land, but no one was supposed to jump the gun. With only seven weeks to prepare, land-hungry Americans quickly began to gather around the borders of the irregular rectangle of territory. Referred to as “Boomers,” by the appointed day more than 50,000 hopefuls were living in tent cities on all four sides of the territory.

The events that day at Fort Reno on the western border were typical. At 11:50 a.m., soldiers called for everyone to form a line. When the hands of the clock reached noon, the cannon of the fort boomed, and the soldiers signaled the settlers to start. With the crack of hundreds of whips, thousands of Boomers streamed into the territory in wagons, on horseback, and on foot. All told, from 50,000 to 60,000 settlers entered the territory that day. By nightfall, they had staked thousands of claims either on town lots or quarter section farm plots. Towns like Norman, Oklahoma City, Kingfisher, and Guthrie sprang into being almost overnight.

Besides the injustice of stealing property from one group (natives) and offering it for sale to another (whites), the entire process is an rich embarrassment of bureaucracy…though the history.com site whitewashes some of the incidents that took place.

Compare this with the complex process of property rent evaluation, ownership, and sale between parties that were mostly peaceful and non-zero-sum.

Unfortunately there isn’t a free electronic version of the book online so I can’t copy-paste any relevant text concerning that. Google Books has some free chapters but the text isn’t HTML. It’s worth a look at if you’re interested in how property rights can develop “naturally,” without state forces having its hand.

Photos: Listen to Metal Stickers

I made good use of the “Listen To Metal” stickers I helped Seth with.

This was placed next to a map of the Pittsburgh subway system. When I checked last it was taken down. I have no idea what the pink smudge on it is:
listen_to_metal_sticker1

On a Pittsburgh Steelers promotional poster:
listen_to_metal_sticker2

On a pillar on a pedestrian walkway that was under Macy’s, on Cherry Way:
listen_to_metal_sticker3

Outside a building at PNC Plaza where everyone smokes. The placard on the right is a “no smoking” sign:
listen_to_metal_sticker4