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Photo: Drops of Life

Drops of Life — water drops falling off a hand

Raindrops falling off my hand, with the high-contrast black and white effect I love. It’s my hand; I held it up so the rain water would run off it, managing the camera with the other hand (as I’m so good at). Since the sun was behind my, it made my hand a black silhouette. These droplets represent life, because hands and the human touch is the essence of life.

I added a touch of contrast, and removed the little bit of color that was there. This one was great out of camera. 1600 ISO speed, but there isn’t much noise for some reason. (Maybe because it was cool out?).

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/3200, F3.5, 18mm, ISO1600, 2007-08-31T15:47:26-04, 2007-08-31_19h47m26

Location: Thripp Residence, Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7227

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Th8.us: URL trimming service

I created a URL trimming service at Th8.us. The URLs are shorter than Tinyurl: 19 characters instead of 25, in the format http://xxxxx.th8.us. I put it together using Hidayet Dogan’s Phurl for my Twitter account, but then thought it should be released to the world. I made modifications to the code so the random part is a virtual subdomain, is five characters instead of six (it’ll be a while before the 24 million combinations are used up), it respects trailing slashes, it links to the new address instead of just showing it in plain text, and it tells you the number of characters you’ve saved (it’ll even be negative if the original address was shorter). Also, hard-to-read characters are excluded (0, 1, j, l, u, and v). The service is simple, fast, and clean, unlike Thripp.com, which is heavy and feature-laden (flexible) and thus more prone to outages. th8.us shares no code and uses a separate database from Thripp.com, so you can count on the URLs working forever (barring problems with my host, SYN Hosting).

Here’s the first trimmed URL as an example: http://oorph.th8.us/. :cool:

Drag the one-click Twitter bookmarklet from the home page to your bookmarks toolbar. It’ll take you to Twitter and type in the shortened URL of the page you were visiting into the post box.

The Big Switch

I’ve been away for two days working on technical issues instead of photography. The big one is that I’ve changed from richardxthripp.com to Thripp.com for myself and my users. A lot of work, but worth it because it’s so short. Read more about it here. I’d been posting to Twitter about it, right after I discovered that Thripp.com had become available, yesterday.

Expect some more photography tomorrow. The new address is richardxthripp.thripp.com, but richardxthripp.com/richardxthripp, richardxthripp.richardxthripp.com, and rxthripp.com, and subdirectories of them will continue to work forever. My email is now richardxthripp@thripp.com, but richardxthripp@gmail.com and richardxthripp@richardxthripp.com will also continue forwarding. Since the RSS feed address changed, Feedburner sent old posts to all my email subscribers. Sorry about that! It only happens once.

I updated the banner at the top so it says Thripp.com now. I’m here to stay! :cool:

Photo: Obey the Sign

Obey the Sign — drink water if you are here for a physical

This was the sign at the doctor’s office for mandatory physical examinations for Volusia County job applicants, way back when I started working at the library (2006 November). The great thing since I was fired, is that I pee into cups far less often being jobless. If I want to repeat the experience, it will only be out of choice and for fun of some sort.

Anyway, I’m sure there’s a more tactful way to work this sign. Perhaps, “please be prepared to give a urine sample.” That wording is more general-purpose too. A sign like that could be everywhere, because who knows when it will come up (for the national security of course).

This was Obey the Sign 6 back on deviantART. The 5 before it are junk, so this is now the definitive Obey the Sign. This photo’s funny in a sad sort of way… we don’t even treat our dogs like this. The clinician has to keep his ear to the bathroom door, to make sure you’re not substituting someone else’s urine. That’s a problem so often, you know?

This isn’t an image you have to beat to death. I just converted to black and white, added a ton of contrast, and burned in the corners.

Canon PowerShot A620, 1/15, F2.8, 50mm, ISO50, 2006-11-10T09:39:53-04, 2006-11-10_09h39m53

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Photo: Waterlogged

Waterlogged — a hard disk platter and arm, dotted with raindrops

The hard drive that never was. Waterlogged is two years old, coming on the heels of Raindrops, but a classic nonetheless. This was the hard drive from my first computer, a budget desktop I got in 2000 (I was 9 then). In February of 2005 it failed, and I’d just left it sitting around till June of 2006 when I cracked the case open (harder than you’d think) and took this shot. The drive is a Seagate ST34311A. I was walking around the yard positioning it as a mirror, creating interesting compositions (Blend In is another), when it started raining. The hard drive got wet, and that inspired this photo. The platters make quite a mirror, making the reflections in the drops quite sharp. After drying, the mirror was covered with spots and dust I never could get off, unfortunately.

Don’t ever open your computer’s hard drive, unless it’s broke and you’ve backed up your data, or you have no hope of recovering it. The read/write head you see in the picture hovers on a cushion of air one-tenth the thickness of a hair, produced by the velocity of the spinning disk(s) (7200RPM is common now). Even a speck of dust on the platter can mess up the drive and destroy your data. Hard drives are really fragile, and generally a bad way to save information, but they’re still the best thing we have to store a lot of changing data, cheaply and quickly. Back up your pictures to CDs or DVDs too, as they’re more stable.

Many hard drives have multiple platters (two to five), but this has just one. I found out the disks aren’t thick (slightly thinner than a CD, though very rigid), and they’re double sided. Underneath is another head that moves in tandem with the top one, reading and writing data to the underside. I still have pieces of this drive scattered around the house somewhere.

My finger sneaked into the frame on the top-right, darn it. Had to clone it out in Photoshop. Same for the bright edge at the bottom-left, and the silver bolt at the top, because they were too distracting. I converted to black and white and added a good bit of contrast, making the image more appealing.

[sniplet 4×6-lustre]

Fujifilm FinePix A360, 1/139, F2.81, 5.8mm, ISO64, 2006-06-25T19:03:53-04, 2006-06-25_19h03m53

Location: Thripp Residence, Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7227

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Photo: The Last Battle

The Last Battle — a twig vs. the incoming black clouds

The only remaining twig, fighting the last battle against the incoming storm clouds. All the other ones have been washed away, or struck by lightning or something. I ripped this plant life off a bush of some sort in our yard (it’s a jungle out there), because it has a nice shape and pattern of leaves. It fit the bright space in the sky well, so I held it up with one hand while snapping the shot with the other.

It was a bit bluish out; I found the image worked better in black and white. I added a lot of contrast to push the branch to black and the bright parts of the sky to near white, then darkened the dark clouds to add punch. It was late, so I under-exposed to gain a fast enough shutter speed, and because I knew I wouldn’t need shadow detail anyway. That’s why the original image is dark.

[sniplet 4×6-lustre]

Canon PowerShot A620, 1/100, F2.8, 7.3mm, ISO100, 2007-05-13T19:56:32-04, 2007-05-13_23h56m32

Location: Thripp Residence, Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7227

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Photo: Sunset in the City

Sunset in the City — power lines, cars, and a beautiful pink sunset

A sunset near the Wal-Mart in South Daytona, Florida. I couldn’t move away to exclude the distractions, so I made them part of the scene to represent urban life. The colors and cloud dark clouds at the top drew my eye, as did the cars at the bottom. I made the tail light of a car the dot for the i in City, and the headlight the period for the X. in Richard X. Thripp. Creatively incorporating the title into the piece is nice sometimes.

I added a bunch of contrast, shifted the colors from yellow to pink, and brightened the lights of the cars.

Canon PowerShot A620, 1/160, F3.5, 14.93mm, ISO100, 2007-01-19T18:05:27-05, 2007-01-19_23h05m27b

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

How to Be Happy

My belief is that happiness is a means, not an end. Living for happiness, games, or to avoid conflict is shallow and cowardly. We have an increasingly materialistic society, and that too applies to happiness, because people seek it instead of something greater like service to others, which is a truer path. It’s like focusing on making money rather than providing a valuable service to others (the only persistent way to make a lot of money). Articles like this that say things like “life satisfaction occurs most often when people are engaged in absorbing activities that cause them to forget themselves, lose track of time and stop worrying” perpetuate the myth. Happiness comes from courageous action for the benefit of others, not solitary hobbies like journaling, photography, or music. If those hobbies can be purposed to educate and inspire others, then all the better. If they cannot, then the only value they have is for your personal growth. You can use them to gain the strength to serve others through other means, but the hobbies are just a shell on their own, just as happiness is a shell. A stable job, a house, a car, money, friends, a family, and a ticket to heaven (church lip-service) is misery if it’s all you’ve got and you dedicate your life to maintaining it.

Ultimately, happiness cannot come from your hobbies, spouse, children, family, God, or even service to others. It has to come from within, from strength that you may have built through those means but that has become self-sustaining. Serving others will make you happier, as will engaging hobbies, loving relationships, etc., but only as icing on the cake, the meat of which is your own independence, intelligence, courage, mental resources, consciousness, and authenticity. Sure, you can live without these things. But would you be happy with a cake that is 100% icing? No: it would taste disgusting and make you sick. Materialists live this sickening life every day.

One movie that made me think a lot about the roots of happiness is Star Trek: Generations. In it, Captains Kirk and Picard are trying to stop a man who is going to kill millions of people to get into “the Nexus,” a Utopian realm where you get live forever and have everything you want. The catch is that you have to consciously live knowing that it is all an illusion. Picard gets sucked into it by accident, where he has his dream: a loving family to celebrate Christmas with (he has no family back in the real world). But after ten minutes of screen time he rejects it and leaves, because he wants to live in the real world, no matter what the cost.

When you live for your hobbies, your religion, or your family, you aren’t being real. Being real is the only way to live, which is being intelligent rather than ignorant, and knowing lies and evil so that you can embrace the truth and the good. That’s why God lets us choose good from evil: it would be meaningless if he made the choice for us. Children who live for their video games, their friends, or Hannah Montana may look happy, but they’re in fact quite unhappy. They grow up when they realize how empty and unfulfilled their existence as children was. Or at least, they hopefully grow up. Only 5% ever make the leap. The other 95% spend their lives pursuing childish, mouse-like, fake happiness, and die never finding it. If I can help just one percent of these people, then I’ve done well. If I can grow up myself, I’ve done well.

My mom inspired me to write this.

Investment and Efficiency

Say I have a plain text file of 500 dates formatted as MM/DD/YY and I need to change them to YYYY-MM-DD. There are a couple of options. I can do it all by hand, wearing out the backspace and arrow keys, and opening myself to the possibilities of typos. Or, I can find an automated way to do it. Say I’m slow, and it takes me three hours of fighting to find a good text editor and figure out how to use regular expressions to make the changes all at once. It would’ve been quicker just to do it all by hand. So which method is better?

Obviously, using regular expressions was much more efficient, but the overhead was much higher. There is a comparatively steep learning curve, and it takes a lot more time to figure out and implement than mere manual labor. But it’s an investment, and the investment is all up front rather than being spread over years. Some day I’ll need to do something similar again, and leveraging the experience I gained here will make it that much quicker.

Pursuing efficiency even when the road is bumpier and filled with pitfalls is a hard resolution to make.

Personally, I’d prefer to look for a creative and automated solution to a problem, even if it takes ten times more time and effort than doing it the normal way. The normal way is boring. Being engaged in the mind is always the better choice over being efficient in inefficient processes.

Take my How to give file names to your photos article for example. A pro-progress yet short-sighted person might ask, “Why would you waste time on something so trivial? Just give descriptive file names to your photos like a normal person.” But that’s not the point. The point is to find the better way to do things and follow through, even if the upfront investment is higher. Inventing is always more fun, even if the gains are minimal, for the coolness factor alone. I’d rather be creative but take six hours than to work efficiently but boringly in three.

This website is an example of high efficiency plus high investment. When I post a photo here, all I do is upload a file, link to it, write out a description and some keywords, and possibly a source image, which takes all of ten minutes. Then, an army of automated processes take over to start updating tag pages, category listings, RSS feeds, counters, galleries, posts lists, and more, site-wide and beyond. A URI is created based on my title, automatically (spaces turn to hyphens, etc.). The post counter in my sidebar updates. Three thumbnails with links are dynamically created with links: a small one for the header, a large one for the post, and a medium one for the gallery. The gallery is automated updated and every older photo is pushed back. The small thumbnail appears in the header randomly. The large one pops up right on the screen when you click, and all the code is handled on the server side. Photos pop up at the top of the home page, and at the bottom of the index.

My server automatically mirrors the post to LiveJournal and Facebook, serving as a running backup and giving options to my readers. An RSS feed is updated, and a third party called Feedburner sends out an email for my posts to 150 subscribers each day. Sites I link to are pinged, Google, Yahoo, and others automatically start crawling, and my new post starts popping up around the thripp.com network: on the main page, in the global feed, in the latest posts, and in every site’s sidebar. The local search engine is updated behind the scenes. Three of my other posts are displayed below the new photo through automated keyword matching. A printable, formatted version is created and linked to. The timestamp is saved. Archives by date are created. Social bookmarking links are added. A comments system and accompanying RSS feed pops up. When the second visitor stops by, a static HTML copy and gzipped (compressed) version has been created, and one or the other is automatically served up depending on what my visitor’s browser supports. It’s like magic.

The time investment for all this has been quite large. Despite doing almost no original coding and the extensive open-source community around WordPress MU, it’s taken my hundreds of hours to plan and design everything, to work out compatibility issues between plugins, to experiment, to debug, to get the software to do what I want instead of what it wants to do. I had to get a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, PHP, Apache, MySQL, SEO, etc. just to know where to go. Far harder than plugging away on deviantART. But that is someone else’s website, where they make the profits. You might think the efficient way is to forgo the investment and keep posting there. Then when I get banned on frivolous charges or get fed up with the service, I can move to Flickr or MySpace or SmugMug, confuse all my followers, and start the process anew. But to the leader’s mind, that is obviously the wrong way to go, despite the low barriers to entry.

The literal overhead for all this is very high. I even had to switch hosts recently, because the old one wasn’t cutting it with the weight of the processes. There are hundreds of files and scripts on my server, all handling different pieces of a dyanmic website. This is heavy and slow. But the efficiency outweighs it. It’s not efficiency in terms of computer time (insignificant), but efficiency in terms of human time (very significant). The most efficient way for the server is if I post a static HTML file with some text and one image. But this is no good for me, and it’s no good for my visitors. Computer time is always cheap, but your time is quite important. If a much faster or more complex computer can do what you do, even if it costs five times more, it’s worth it. This is efficiency triumphing over investment.

Efficiency is always the higher road, because it’s human. You don’t see cats coming up with more efficient ways to hunt birds. They spend hundreds of years on the same tried, true, and tired practices. They’re being quite “efficient,” but it’s done in a most uneconomical way, so much so that they may as well be wasting 90% of their time, if they were only using creative solutions in the remaining 10%, like weapons or camouflage or traps.

As an employee, you’ll often be stuck with methods that are battle hardened, but highly inefficient. Perhaps it is the library that has all its employees add bibliographic records by hand, because the administrators are too afraid to change systems. Or it could be the office store that focuses on pushing valueless warranties at the expense of its customers, the government agency that stifles thriftiness by requiring you to meet wasteful spending quotas, or the college that is afraid to shift to digital photography or online classes. Inefficiency is the way of the bureaucracy, just as it’s the way of animals and dull people. It’s easy to take the long, uncreative way; there’s almost no risk of loss because it’s a sure-fire success. That doesn’t make it worthwhile, though, because its accomplishments are meager and unspirited at best. To get somewhere, you have to invest time and money, even if it may yield no benefits.

Some organizations are more daring and better to work for. Google is known for that. But all of them are going to turn blindly against investment occasionally. The only way to avoid it is to work for yourself, and even then, doing the best thing rather than the safe thing is hard. Anything else is being penny wise but dollar foolish. Like my sociology teacher used to say: bureaucracies are hardy and resilient. So are cockroaches (except in that photo). Do you want to be like a cockroach? It isn’t worth it, no matter how much vulnerability you are shielded from.

You can use investing to garner efficiency in many areas of your life. Why buy a pack of cigarettes when you can save by buying the whole carton? If you’re a smoker, you don’t expect to suddenly quit, do you? Why publish your book through an on-demand press that charges $5 a copy, when you can get it for under $1 by doing a run of 5000 up front, and paying all at once? That’s what my Dad did. It’s expensive to start, but is going to save you so much in the long run. Unless you totally fail. My Dad hasn’t been successful. But if you don’t take the risk of committing yourself, you’re all that more likely to avoid success. You’ll be stifling yourself every step along the way, because your subconscious mind wants to prove itself right for not being willing to invest.

Investment is not a panacea; you must use it on things you are very committed to; things which have a chance of succeeding. I wouldn’t say buying $10,000 in lottery tickets is a good thing. But if you’re doing one thing well, you are efficiently losing money. It’s a much more efficient way than heading to the grocery store each week to buy just one lottery ticket. All those wasted trips…You could’ve just thrown away your money all at once and have been done with it! And that is the best choice, but only if you’ll be wasting the money anyway.

High investment narrows your focus. Instead of working willy-nilly, you pick a specific path and work at it incessantly. Being a jack of all trades is great, but gaining cursory knowledge of ten subjects can take as much time as becoming an expert in one. I’m trying to become an expert with my photography, at all costs. I hardly play the piano anymore, because it just wasn’t working out when I wanted to focus my attention elsewhere. I’m invested in being unemployed, because I want to make money off my passion without having to work (my work isn’t work—it’s fun). But if I stay on the fence and refuse to invest time, money, efforts, and resources, I’m guaranteed not to succeed. If I focus too heavily on maintaining dead hobbies rather than building my strength, I’m also squandering efficiency. The path is always changing, and old goals need to be abandoned unfinished to make way for the new. But this in fact is the highest investment of all: investment not for your comfort, but for your growth.

The Return of the Shop

The shop is back. It’s a bit different now. If you can recall from a month ago, I gave up on yak because it doesn’t work with WordPress MU. I found a plugin that does: Quick-Shop. It’s less fancy, but a lot easier to maintain. When you click “Add to Cart” on any page, you get redirected to the shopping cart, with that item added. To go back, press back in your browser (the old-fashioned way). To buy, click the PayPal button; you’ll be redirected to them so you can enter your payment info. Here’s the cart in action:

the shopping cart

You can change quantities; just press enter to update. The red X’s remove items, and more shipping policies and such are below the form.

Since this new software has no database and keeps no inventory or shipping logic, shipping is USA only now. You can email me if you really want some prints and can’t move to my country, though. Also, you can order like 500 of a print, because there’s no stock tracking. If you do this, it’ll take me a week extra to have the copies printed.

I’ve released all of my portfolio in the shop, to start. The price is $0.95 plus $0.42 shipping per print, and the size is 4*6 for them all. I like the new software because I can put multiple items to a post, unlike with yak, and I don’t have to do tedious updating of custom fields; it’s really quick for me to add an Add to Cart button.

Unfortunately, the plugin has security issues. I tried commenting about them on the author’s site, but just got a blank screen. Here is that comment:

I’m liking this plugin a lot and am using it on my site. It’s so basic, yet effective, and the lack of stock control isn’t an issue if you can produce an unlimited quantity of your products, like with mine. My only concern is the lack of security. You can easily fudge the HTML to get a site to display a lower price. For example with your site, putting the code below in a local file and clicking the button in a browser will actually load your site with the item at the reduced price ($5.00 from $359.99).

<p>Budget Intel PC: <strike>$359.99</strike> <strong>$5.00</strong> <object><form method="post" action="http://www.ozedeals.biz/" style="display:inline"><input type="submit" value="Add to Cart" /><input type="hidden" name="product" value="Budget Intel PC" /><input type="hidden" name="price" value="5.00" /><input type="hidden" name="shipping" value="0.99" /><input type="hidden" name="addcart" value="1" /><input type="hidden" name="qslink" value="http://www.ozedeals.biz/" /></form></object></p>

Obviously, if anyone does this, you don’t have to send them the item. It gets tricky if you’re giving them a receipt with the price they’ve forged, though. Might even be troublesome if they just cut the price in half and then complain to PayPal if you refuse to take the loss (they’ll have a PayPal confirmation with the product and lower price).

I’m not too worried about it because I’m dealing with low-value items, but otherwise I would be. Nice work on the plugin, nonetheless.

If you do the above to fake a lower price on my prints, I’m taking it as a donation. Most people are good and will use the shop as intended. :sunglasses: Thanks!

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