Upgraded to WordPress 2.5

I just upgraded my website to WordPress 2.5. The administrative area is a lot nicer, though not much changes for my readers. The Printable View links aren’t working; let me know if you spot any other problems. Update: print versions are back, as the creator of the WP-Print module has updated for the changes in WordPress. I added my modifications again; it’s the same as before except with an improvement: if I link to a URI twice, it’s only displayed in the endnotes once and referenced with the same number in the text, saving ink.

Also, I’ve added more advertising to help my adventure to become profitable; there are Google link ads in the sidebar, footer, and above the list of comments for each entry. If you read my donations page, you know how unsuccessful I am at solvency, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

The Profit Police and How They Kill Everyone

Silhouette of a man holding a hammer -- Photography by Richard X. Thripp

The profit police are as old as eternity, but insidious as the devil. They threaten to steal our happiness, to sour us with envy, hatred, and guilt. Their orthodoxy is codified in institutional policies all over the world. They kill everyone. They are us.

Profit is not just money. Profit is also prestige, notoriety, and mere exposure. The profit police take keeping up with the Joneses to the extreme. They tell us that promoting our names or starting a business is selfish, greedy, and wrong. They are responsible for the professionalization of jobs that have no business being bureaucratized. They create sad terms like vanity press, as though not having a book approved by a committee makes the author an egotistical lunatic. Their influence starts with us, at the micro level.

The Junior Anti-Profit League is alive and well on the forums of the Internet. Well-meaning adults persist with policies of “no advertising, no self-promotion, no links to your website, no ‘commercialism.'” They cry foul at affiliate links, for no reason further than to stifle the success of their users (my photography articles are proudly littered with them). Brilliant computer-programmers publish free software with the clause, “no commercial use,” as if every dollar earned with the help of their applications comes straight from their wallets. As if profit is bad. As if the very act of seeking prosperity—called the American Dream by many—is the bane of humanity. Run the phrase, “free for non-commercial use” through Google, and you get 264,000 web pages, all of people afraid of something.

What are they afraid of? The success of others. Why are they afraid of it? Because they perceive that it diminishes themselves. We all do this. Charles Wheelan, financial blogger, elaborates:

“There’s a very interesting strain of economic research showing that our sense of well-being is determined more by our relative wealth than by our absolute wealth.

In other words, we care less about how much money we have than we do about how much money we have relative to everyone else. In a fascinating survey, Cornell economist Robert Frank found that a majority of Americans would prefer to earn $100,000 while everyone else earns $85,000, rather than earning $110,000 while everyone else earns $200,000.

Think about it: People would prefer to have less stuff, as long as they have more stuff than the neighbors.”

This scales down to the minute level. I am guilty of it myself. When I opened my website, I set my Google AdSense advertising up to filter ads for other photographers. I stopped doing this after a week, realizing how silly it is. But the fact is that fear of the success of others is a subconscious human response. It’s also irrational. Another’s persons success is not my loss, no matter how it may seem.

I’ve had my own encounter with The Profit Police as of yesterday. If you’ve read The Thievery of richardxthripp, you know of my rush to secure my name on the popular blogging, photography, and social networking websites after richardxthripp.blogspot.com was claimed by spammers. One of the sites I registered for was 43 Things, a destination for sharing your life’s goals with the world. I’ve admired their community for a while, so I added to the discussion to help others with two things I’ve done, and to drive visitors to my website:

I added to the goal, have a blog:

“I’ve done this now. Set up my blog for my photography: Brilliant Photography by Richard X. Thripp. Started three months ago, but it’s an ongoing project. I’m using WordPress as my blogging software; it’s worth it to have your own domain name so you aren’t tied to any third party.”

And, sharing my knowledge on playing the piano:

“Playing the piano is a great hobby for reflection, mental and finger dexterity, appreciating music, and enjoying with others. I’ve been playing since ten; here’s a performance from January.

What I don’t buy, is that you have to start when you’re young. Plenty of adults learn to type quickly (with our newfound reliance on computers), yet that takes dexterity, skill, and practice, like piano. And also—you can look at your fingers while playing. You may come to memorize a song just from working on it a lot, and then begin watching your fingers so you don’t miss the keys; don’t fight it.”

Don’t bother looking for my entries; they’ve been vaporized now, along with my page. I’m alive in the Google cache for now: have a blog, play the piano (2008-07-31 Update: now removed). Little did I read that they have a policy against my kind of writing:

“43 Things is for personal use only. If you sell or promote products, services or yourself through your 43 Things page, we will suspend your account.”

So promoting yourself is not personal use? Sure, if you own a social network you can enact whatever rules they want, but that doesn’t mean you should. This is the cowardly, suicidal behavior that profit policing drives us to. It is cowardly because it sweeps under the rug the work of others, as if the publisher deserves no credit for his insights. It is suicidal because it destroys discussions and useful information at the fear of others’ gain, reducing morale and alienating users.

I used to release my stock photographs with a license that said “no commercial use.” It took me months to finally give it up. The question: What if someone gets rich from using the resources I provide? They’d be earning money off my hard work! The answer: So what? This is not a Reversi game, where every acquisition by your opponent is an equal blow to you. 200 A’s do not necessitate 200 F’s. Life is not a zero-sum game. It’s time we stopped playing it as one.

Recommended reading:
How Jealousy and Envy Destroy Happiness by Steve Olson
Life ain’t a zero-sum game.
Why Income Inequality Matters by Charles Wheelan

Stock: Yellow Grasshopper

Yellow Grasshopper — a sharp bug on a white background

A yellow grasshopper from my yard, with my attempt at isolating him. I did alright, so I’m releasing this as a resource to the world.

Download the high-res JPEG (PNG) or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Fujifilm FinePix A360, 1/30, F2.81, 5.8mm, ISO74, 2006-07-07T16:42:13-04, 2006-07-07_16h42m13

The Thievery of richardxthripp

the pain of it all

I tried to register my name at blogger.com but got the error message above. Turns out someone’s swiped the name: http://richardxthripp.blogspot.com/ is just a parked spam blog, set up just over a month ago (2008-02-20). It’s about two thousand spam link ads.

One thing that I’ve always counted with my name (Richard X. Thripp a.k.a. richardxthripp), is that it is so unique that I can go to any website and register as richardxthripp with no fear of my identity already being taken. Apparently, I’m picking up a bit of notoriety and that is changing. The only thing to do next is to launch a pre-emptive strike against the thieves.

http://www.animalcrossingcommunity.com/user_profile.asp?UserID=28254 (must log in)
http://www.orkut.com/Profile.aspx?uid=15787114936809567549 (must log in)

How do you like them apples? Twenty-six websites where I’ve claimed my identity. Some are old, but there are sixteen ones I registered in the past few hours. Obviously, I won’t update any of these, but at least no one else will be carrying on their evil plans in my name.

These are two great articles on stopping the new-fangled cyber-squatters:

SearchRank: Securing Your Brand on Social Networking Sites
ProBlogger: When Seth Godin isn’t Seth Godin

I ran across these before, but wasn’t motivated enough to take action, unfortunately.

So tell me, is there any killer social networking, blogging, photography, or art network that’s missing from my list?

2008-03-29 Update: Added Animal Crossing Community and YouTube; forgot about those.

Photo: The Yellow Symphony

The Yellow Symphony — vivid flowers against a warm sky

Yellow flowers from an roofless flower shop; you can find good photos anywhere. I took this from a low angle, so you can’t see any people or products in the background; just the sky. There’s interesting stuff among the stems and flowers below, but most people just look at the flowers at the top.

I spent a while changing the colors; I was debating between cooler blue tones or warm red and yellow, finally choosing the latter after comparing. There was an out-of-focus flower that creeped into the bottom-right of the frame that I cloned out, and I applied contrast enhancements and a subtle glowing effect. I let the sky go to pure white and the shadowy jungle below the flowers to black, because those areas don’t deserve detail.
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Canon PowerShot A620, 1/1000, F4.5, 7.3mm, ISO50, 2007-06-08T14:23:26-04, 2007-06-08_18h23m26

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: Rose of Orange

Rose of Orange — beautiful orange petals decorated with raindrops

An orange rose with water drops; I took this at a Lowe’s flower shop. The bubble in the center is a droplet that looks to be floating; I didn’t use a dropper as this was after a storm.

The flower is a red hybrid-tea rose; I made the color shift by changing the white-balance setting in-camera.
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Canon PowerShot A620, 1/15, F2.8, 7.3mm, ISO50, 2007-01-18T16:29:42-05, 2007-01-18_21h29m42

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: Assimilation

Assimilation — a lone red leaf in a sea of death

A bright-red leaf out-of-place in a field of sickly brown leaves. I happened upon this idea as I saw a red leaf amongst all the brown leaves in our yard, so then I went and found a better leaf and positioned it like this. It was rainy and overcast, so the lighting was lower contrast and a bit blue, which is fitting for this image.

This didn’t need much spot editing, but it did benefit from added contrast and a shift to cooler colors. I added red to the leaf and desaturated the background (just a tad) to make it stand out more.
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Canon PowerShot A620, 1/10, F7.1, 7.3mm, ISO50, 2007-01-08T14:07:05-05, 2007-01-08_19h07m05b

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

The Sacrificial Pepper

The Sacrificial Pepper: An Analysis of Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “Green Chile.”
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-03-25 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (70 KB).

Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “Green Chile” is a poem of love and sacrifice, symbolized through two types of chile peppers. The author blandly states that his preference is for “red chile over my eggs / and potatoes for breakfast” (1-2), but his grandmother “loves green chile” (11), chopping one up with “mysterious passion on her face” (31). Baca says that “red chile ristras decorate my door, / dry on my roof, and hang from my eaves” (3-4), showing that the red-colored versions are used frequently as decorations, giving an “air of festive welcome” (7), yet they often go uneaten. His grandmother offers him the green variety “with beans and rice,” (34), which he calls “her sacrifice / to her little prince” (34-35). This makes green chile sound different, more sacred and mysterious, while red chile is not as special. The author shows us “a well-dressed gentleman at the door” (19), and then writes of his grandmother “rubbing its firmly glossed sides” (21), which is more like the description of a chile pepper than a man. Referring to “her little prince” (35) may be an allusion to the author, her grandson. The peppers take on a life of their own, in the grandmother and the author’s minds. They are “her sacrifice,” (34), perhaps meaning that she has given up her youth and ambitions to raise and protect her grandson and the rest of her family.

The green chiles are not Baca’s favorite, as when eating them, he says “my mouth burns / and I hiss and drink a tall glass of cold water” (37-38). However, he does not refuse them, evidently out of respect for his grandmother and the heritage that the peppers represent. He waxes philosophical of “sunburned men and women,” driving “rickety trucks stuffed with gunny sacks / of green chile,” selling them “for a dollar a bag,” it being a “beautiful ritual” (39-45). Despite his liking for the less spicy red peppers, he accepts green chiles because they are a traditional staple which his grandmother loves. This shows reciprocal sacrifice on his part; he eats the food of his forefathers to please his grandmother, despite the uncomfortable burning in his mouth.

To the author, red chiles represent strength and history, while his grandmother prefers green chiles for their youth and passion. Baca talks of the red pepper’s “historical grandeur” (6), being like “haggard, yellowing, crisp, rasping tongues of old men, licking the breeze” (9-10). Here, he is likening the red chiles to wise elders, who recount riveting tales of their livid past. Conversely, the green chile is “voluptuous, masculine” (15), having “authority and youth” (16). We know that the color red is often associated with love and passion (as with red roses), so it is counter-intuitive that the colors are flipped with the chiles. However, green chiles are unripe like green bananas; they ripen and change colors, turning red, after which they are normally dried and preserved. They must be cooked or frozen quickly, so they are a regional specialty. This goes along with the grandmother’s fascination with them; their “air of authority and youth” (16) comes from them literally being younger than red chiles.

The elderly grandmother prefers produce representing sensuality and passion, while the youthful grandson prefers the pepper of tradition and formality; however, it is more usual to associate tradition with the aged. We see that the green chile is like a fiery young lover to the grandmother, as she compares it to “a well-dressed gentleman at the door,” whom she “takes sensuously in her hand,” “caressing the oily rubber serpent, / with mouth-watering fulfillment, / fondling its curves with gentle fingers” (19-24). Descriptors like “caressing” and “fondling” are apt for romantic love, not a common vegetable. However, here the green chile is a metaphor for the grandmother’s passionate love, though it may be unfulfilled. If the pepper is a person then he is soon killed, as “she thrusts her blade into [the green chile] / and cuts it open, with lust / on her hot mouth” (27-29). This shows that her lover must be sacrificed for the benefit of her grandson, and it becomes the part of a glorious meal, as Baca illustrates: “she serves me green chile con carne / between soft warm leaves of corn tortillas / with beans and rice—her sacrifice” (32-34), going along with her forfeiting her passions for familial obligations.

The chiles are an “old, beautiful ritual,” to be relived “again and again.” What does this mean? We can clearly see that the vegetables are an important part of New Mexican tradition, and so this is why they are deserving of a poem. It also represents the untiring effort that the New Mexican workers and farmers put into their chiles, as “you see them roasting green chile / in screen-sided homemade barrels” (43-44). The barrels are made carefully by hand, yet the chiles fetch a paltry “dollar a bag” (44). However, this keeps them accessible to even the poor, and shows sacrifice on the part of the workers. It is curious that Baca shows little emotion in the last stanza, despite his vivid depiction of his grandmother’s preparation of the green chile, but I take it as a sweeping demonstration of recognition and respect for the ritual of the chile peppers. In forty-five eloquent lines, we are shown that food is love and love is sacrifice. Baca makes these connections beautifully; while the subject is common, the message is unique.

Work Cited

Baca, Jimmy Santiago. “Green Chile.” Jimmy Santiago Baca: Poetry, Writing, Chicano Literature. 25 Mar. 2008 <http://www.jimmysantiagobaca.com/greenchile.html>.

Photo: Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes — eight bite-sized tomatoes in a row

Cherry tomatoes that I arranged in a line. The yellow table makes a great background for red-colored still life. They look good enough to eat!

I cloned out the dirt that was on the tomatoes and table, removed background reflections and distractions, brightened the image, and added contrast.
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Fujifilm FinePix A360, 1/74, F2.81, 5.8mm, ISO64, 2006-08-07T14:27:03-04, 2006-08-07_14h27m03

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: The Stuccoed House

The Stuccoed House — a lit, yellow home at night, with three ghosts

A thirty-second exposure of my house at night, with the lights on. Our house has creatively applied stucco that is painted yellow, so it makes an interesting and reflective texture, particularly with the yellowish indoor lights. The ghostly figures are of me standing next to two windows and in the light behind the house; I stood still in each spot for eight seconds to achieve the effect (took four tries). I don’t own a proper tripod, so I used a step-ladder; it does well in a pinch.

For the glowing effect, I used a gaussian-blurred layer with soft-light blending in Adobe Photoshop CS3. Other than that, I added contrast and color, burned the sky, and dodged the ghosts.
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Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 30″, F3.5, 18mm, ISO400, 2008-03-22T22:11:14-04, 20080323-021114rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.