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Photo: Don’t Cross Me

Don't Cross Me

2009-12-20 Update: I now believe Jesus Christ is my personal savior, but what I’ve written below still has merit.

… or I’ll cross you right back! Not really, but that’s the best title I can think of for this photo. It’s a church at sunrise, with the ever-wonderful cross towering above.

I edited this in Adobe Camera Raw 4.0 exclusively. Here are the settings I used:

Don't Cross Me settings in Adobe Camera Raw 4.0

I thought about going for cool, bluish tones in the sky, but the golden yellows work better. As you can see, I added contrast and blackness too, to make sure the cross and building really is a silhouette.

I don’t subscribe to Christianity myself, but I see it as a largely good force in this world. People are (ideally) more generous, forgiving, and loving because of the Bible. 80% of people are like that. The other 20% use religion as an oppressive weapon. If they’re high up in the church, they stomp on other people and shun their non church-going friends. They don’t help those in need at all, yet continue asking for donations to line their pockets.

Every field has people like this. Christianity is supposed to be better, because it aspires to higher, Jesus-like perfection, but it isn’t because not everyone will reach Jesus-like levels. In theory, it could happen in this life, but in reality it won’t. It can only happen in an afterlife of some sort, where the bad ones are relegated to Hell or eternal death.

I don’t like Christianity when it brings people down. This isn’t entirely the religion’s fault; these people aren’t willing to go far on their own. But they leave important parts of their life up to the “decision” of God rather than taking initiative themselves. This is bad, bad, bad.

I don’t like that Christians are afraid of tackling big problems. They’ll stay out of politics (the Jehovah’s Witnesses for example) when they should be openly denouncing the crimes our government is committing. They accept being steam-rolled, by politicians and by the vocal atheists.

In the United States, we’ve lost most of our Christian values in my Dad’s lifetime. People have lost modesty, temperance, chastity, love, dignity, etc. We accept abortion, mercy-killing, eugenics, prostitution, eternal dating (do people still get married anymore?), war, murders, torture, crime, and other crap. Don’t tell me that this country is being ruled by fanatical Christians, because it certainly is not.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/2000, F5.6, 55mm, ISO100, 2008-08-10T07:57:32-04, 20080810-115732rxt

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.

Why Abortion is Wrong Even if it’s Right

I’m going down a hypothetical path where abortion is ethical and just, despite knowing it isn’t. I will prove that even if my knowledge is false and abortion is ethical, one who goes down that “ethical” path reaches a dead end, the end result for which is tenfold worse than believing abortion is unethical. Finally, with plain-old logic, I’ll prove that abortion is the wrong choice either way.

Definitions

First, let’s make the definition of “fetus” really clear. The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines it as this:

“In humans, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth.”

They say “unborn young” instead of “unborn baby.” But what is a “young”? In the American Heritage Dictionary, the only definitions of “young” as a noun are these:

1. Young persons considered as a group; youth: entertainment for the young.
2. Offspring; brood: a lioness with her young.

Young persons could be anyone up to eighteen, which is fairly broad. But we know what the lioness is with. She’s with her “young,” so she’s also with her “babies,” because the words are synonyms. Offspring and brood are both babies in their infancies. This means that fetus == unborn child, regardless of a pro or anti-abortion stance. It’s just meaningless semantics.

Now that we know that a mother carries an unborn child, we have to decide if he (or it) has human rights. And yes, I use “he” to mean he or she because I don’t use gender-neutral language.

The human rights question

There are three angles to human rights for unborn humans. They are:

1. The unborn baby has human rights regardless of his mother’s opinion.
2. The unborn baby has no human rights regardless of his mother’s opinion.
3. The unborn baby has human rights if the mother wants to keep him, but no rights if he is unwanted.

I’ve never heard anyone use the third one. No matter which side you come from, human rights don’t fluctuate on a whim. With #3 eliminated, #1 and #2 remain.

#1 is what pro-lifers hold. Even if the mother wants to kill her unborn baby, it’s wrong because he has rights.

#2 is what pro-choicers hold. If the mother wants to kill her unborn baby, that’s fine because he has no rights. If she wants to bear him, that’s fine too because it’s her choice.

The “truths” abortionists hold to be self-evident

Most abortionists hold two beliefs which confirm abortion as ethical, should the mother choose to execute her right. They are:

1. Abortion is mostly harmless: There is little risk to the mother’s body in extracting the unborn baby. The risks in carrying the child to birth are surely higher. Because the child does not yet have human rights, any pain caused to him during the killing does not matter. Most abortions are performed before the fifth month, where the child has not yet formed a human-like brain, so he likely comprehends no pain anyway.

2. Abortion is generally good for society: We have too many people, so it’s good to eliminate a lot of them before birth. Most abortions are performed on babies who would have fewer material possessions and creature comforts if they were born and raised, because their parents are under-funded. This would mean they would have a lower quality of life than other children, which would be unfair. If a to-be-aborted boy was born and raised despite this, his mother wouldn’t love him as much, because if she did, she would never have considered aborting him, instead pressing forward no matter what the difficulties. This would be quite saddening for the boy. Also, teenage mothers receive the most abortions, and because becoming pregnant in your teens is now frowned upon, the child would be socially stigmatized if he was born.

Pragmatism vs. idealism : debunking the myth

The common belief is that the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate can be summed with two words: pragmatism versus idealism. Pro-abortionists are pragmatists, meaning they’re down-to-Earth and practical, while anti-abortionists are idealists, subscribing to over-arching, unmovable values, usually rooted in God, whose existence cannot be scientifically proven. Pro-abortionists believe human life begins once the human-like neural pathways are formed about six months into the pregnancy, while anti-abortionists believe human life begins when life beings: at the point of conception. Some pro-abortionists think it’s alright to kill a baby two minutes before he pops out, but that’s extreme; most concede that if he can survive outside the mother, even with human help, he has human rights.

You may have read all this. You may be thinking it’s pretty reasonable. But actually, it’s just a difference of six months. I know in my heart that human life starts at conception, but both are arbitrary and idealistic. You can’t say one is pragmatic because neither is.

The hidden dark side of abortion

We already know the dark side of accepting abortion: we lose lots of healthy babies. To me, that’s a real shame. Plenty of women are trying but failing at making babies right now, so to throw away perfectly good ones is just wasteful. Then, when you add into the mix that humans have a soul; that they are special, unlike cows and pigs, the case against abortion grows even larger.

But there is an even worse, hidden dark side. The hidden dark side is that by gaining abortion privileges, you think you’ve secured the rights to your body, but in fact, you’ve done just the opposite. You’ve lost them. Now, the state can force you to kill if your baby has Down syndrome, because it’s for the public good. We’ve already determined that abortion is ethical and harmless. Even if you want to keep the baby, democracy will prevail, trumping your rights to your “malformed” child. Do you want that to happen?

The case of rape

Raped women don’t usually become pregnant, evidently because of the fear and shock. A few times it does happen, and pro-abortionists try to use this as a weapon. The argument: rape victims should be allowed to abort, because they’ve suffered enough trauma already.

Let’s think about this logically. There are three people involved in this relationship: the rapist, the victim, and the child. Who is without-a-doubt, completely innocent?

The rapist is bad. Raping a woman isn’t a nice thing to do. The victim may also be completely guiltless. But more likely, culpability entered into the game. She was partially responsible because she didn’t take adequate precautions. She should have known the danger of rape, for a woman, is always present. If I walk down the street with a hat stuffed with hundred dollar bills, I can’t act surprised when I’m robbed.

You may say culpability doesn’t matter. But you already believe pro-abortionists are more intuitive and pragmatic people in general. Isn’t culpability a pragmatic belief? Doesn’t it bode well with your justifications for abortion?

Regardless, the child is the most angelic of the troika. Killing him is completely the wrong action. If you must kill someone, kill the rapist and keep the child. I’ll send a sympathy card to the rapist’s family.

The bias against teenage pregnancy

Being pregnant at fourteen is perfectly normal. Only in the twentieth century have we so firmly criminalized it. People used to die quickly, so it was important to start creating life early and often. Fourteen-year-old girls can easily become pregnant, because they’re already women biologically, even if the government says otherwise.

I have a cousin who had a child at fourteen. That kid is now a perfectly normal, smart-witted girl, soon to be five. I would’ve hated for her to be killed.

Don’t kill your unborn baby just because you’re a teen. So what if other people shun you? Are you going to let society dictate the fate of your baby? Oh, you say your career is ruined now. You have to put money above human life. How weak. You failure. What kind of career have you picked anyway, if having a child as a teenager is going to ruin it? Not a very good career, I can say that.

Come back when you’ve grown up a little. I’ll be waiting.

A better life

I don’t understand it when people say “don’t punish the child.” Abort this one, and have another child later when you’re financially secure, because he’ll have a better life and be wanted. As if being born unwanted is so terrible a punishment. If I was an unwanted, unborn child who got to choose between life and death, I’d be born unwanted anyway, even if I was crippled and retarded. Anything to live. I can’t live if I’m already dead. I can’t do good in this world if I’m snuffed out before having a chance.

What if it’s an incestuous rape and the unborn child is deaf, blind, retarded, and paraplegic?

Have the child anyway. He’ll have a shot at out-shining Helen Keller, and maybe he can be a shining light for others too. :grin:

Should governments criminalize abortions?

Of course. If a government fails to protect the sanctity of human life, what good is that government? The core mission of government is to protect the sick and the weak: the ones that cannot speak for themselves. Abortion should be illegal, and women and doctors who participate in it should be charged with murder. A very unfortunate form of murder. At least if you kill an adult, he has a fighting chance at killing you first. Not so with a helpless baby.

If you’re considering an abortion:

Let me just have one more stab at convincing you to keep the baby. Consider this: once you go through with it, there’s no turning back. But if you have the kid anyway, you can always turn back. Don’t you want the option of turning back? Even when he’s fifteen, you can knock him out with some sleeping pills and beat him over the head with a brick. Sure, you’ll probably go to jail for a while, but it’s all good. You can just claim the Andrea Yates defense. :cool:

A Free Nation Has Free Money

The purpose of any good government is to protect the lives and property of the people. Property is money. Money must be solid. It must be free, in that it is independent of the nefarious deeds of plutocrats. It doesn’t matter how much free speech or free love you have. If you have no money, you have no property, and all your “freedoms” are worthless.

The Federal Reserve, masquerading as part of our government, bails out corporations that have gotten themselves far into debt. In theory, this protects the jobs of the people, because the corporation keeps going. How does the Federal Reserve do this? They print lots more money, backed by nothing, and give it to the corporation, making up for billions of accumulated debts. How do corporations like General Motors and Bear Stearns lose so much money? By becoming unprofitable, bureaucratic failures. Companies that should go out of business are propped up by the government. Every time they do this, our currency gets closer to worthless. An invisible tax is placed on the money in your bank, because its value declines progressively.

When you prop up failures, you bring down everyone else. Small businesses that are rightfully profitable get no help, while losers are supported by the public debt. The rich get richer, the poor (us) get poorer, and the middle class disappears as we turn into Soviet Russia.

We continue creating more and more money out of thin air to fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Yemen, and more, all for the continual war on “terror.” We have troops in 100 countries, spread all over the world. This is all funded by the continual whoring of our dollar. We give China I.O.U.’s in exchange for billions of dollars in goods. What’s going to happen is that we won’t be able to pay them back, and then they’ll use their U.S. money to buy out our country from under us while our currency and bank accounts become completely useless.

This shouldn’t happen. A $20 bill is a piece of paper, just like a $20 bill from 1900. Only then, the bill was worth the equivalent of $1000 of my dollars. What happened? Our money is fake now. It has no link to gold. Private bankers, as part of the private company that controls our money (the Federal Reserve), can print any amount of money on a whim, devaluing our labor. Not just future labor. All the liquid wealth you’ve accumulated in your bank account shrinks at once. All your hard work over many years is taken away at once. And like saps, we all accept it.

What is the root cause of the financial failure of our businesses? A foreign policy which involves us bombing everything that moves, and terrible taxes which kill all good business. An example: owning a restaurant is one of the worst businesses to be in, because every department of the government gets a piece of you. 80% of your money goes toward government inspections and regulation fees. It’s hard to even cover your expenses, no matter how efficient you are.

When you have a feather-bedded, socialist government, the only businesses that can make it have to government-backed. They pay all these terrible fees, but are subsidized by tax dollars. Without government exemptions, the ordinary businessman can’t afford to start his own corporation. Have you seen what the taxes on a sole proprietorship are like these days?

Instead, we’re all relegated to serfdom working for companies like Wal-Mart. I must admit, Wal-Mart is about the most efficient and prudent company around. But they’re still part of our socialist government. The root cause is our fiat currency, our continual warring, and our meddling with the free market. It’s not a “free” market now. It isn’t a free market when you’re taxed at a rate of 90%. Even if you work under the table, you pay huge taxes. Sales tax is one. The rest is in prices that are three times higher than they should be, because every merchant along the way has to cover his tax burden by raising his prices. The United States is the Roman Empire, Part 2.

People are working harder than ever. It’s only because our wasteful government has completely failed us, just as Great Britain had failed our fore-fathers before their noble revolution. 40 years ago, a man could do good honest work and support his wife, several kids, a car, and a mortgage with money to spare. What happens now? Couples have to take out life-time mortgages and both work 50 hours a week in career jobs, leaving their kids to be raised by strangers. Still, they can barely pay the bills. Are they slacking off? Not in the slightest. The currency traders and international bankers get richer and richer while we slave away as pawns of the state.

Students have to work full-time while attending college just to make ends meet. My family can’t even keep a cool house or travel freely, because of the terrible cost of fuel. This isn’t because we as a people are running out of fuel or pillaging the environment. It’s because our money is becoming worthless. There’s plenty of gas to be had at $3.60 per gallon: there are no shortages. Considering gas was 85¢ a gallon in 2002, my money has lost three-fourths it’s value. Your four years of labor from the 90’s is worth one year of labor in 2008. How does that make you feel?

Our technology and collective intellect keeps getting better, but we keep having to work harder and smarter for ever-smaller gains. If innovation had stood still since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, we’d be working for two cents a day by now. It’s only the unwavering American spirit of growth and progress that has secured what little we have now. War, fear, fake money, and martial law isn’t American. This is supposed to be the home of the brave, remember?

A free nation starts with a currency backed by gold, and a market backed by the success of its marketeers. Not the government. The government cannot fight wars nor grant rights. Only God can. The government can only protect or usurp your rights. By usurping your labor, the U.S. government is usurping your rights and your livelihood. It has to stop. It will stop when our government falls and our money is worse less than toilet paper. Only then will people see the truth, but all will be lost and we’ll have to start anew. I’m already getting ready.

For now, stay below the radar. We’re losing our freedoms by the minute. The police are not on your side. Don’t get stuck with a heavy mortgage, keep your mouth shut if the IRS calls you, and don’t pay taxes that you don’t have to pay. Don’t join the army, and if you’re turning eighteen, stay off their list. Don’t vote for Obama or McCain because they’re both identical. A vote for Mickey Mouse is better. Don’t keep too much worthless money lying around. Go back to bartering if you have to. And most of all, foster a spirit of peaceful, nonviolent resistance to government oppression, just as Gandhi wanted.

Photo: Sunrays 5

Sunrays 5

The fifth entry in the series: a burst of sunshine through the dark clouds. I like the power lines at the bottom-right… they sweep in at the right angle.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/4000, F4, 18mm, ISO100, 2008-08-11T17:21:08-04, 20080811-212108rxt

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.

More of the Sunrays series.

Photo: Twilight Sundown

Twilight Sundown

I saw this sunset out the window on the Granada bridge over the Halifax river in Ormond Beach. I was a passenger in the car, so I was able to snap this out the window. It was quite dark, almost night. I had to go all the way up to ISO1600 and all the way down to F1.6 to get a 1/60 shutter speed, so the full size version is quite grainy, but it seems artful.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 50mm 1:1.4, 1/60, F1.6, 50mm, ISO1600, 2008-08-15T20:20:47-04, 20080816-002047rxt

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: Caramel Sunset

Caramel Sunset

This beautiful sunset caught my eye out the window. The skies here are just getting better and better. I ran out with my wide-angle lens (the kit lens) and started snapping different angles of it. It didn’t look like this to start, but I stuck around for ten minutes and the clouds came together in this odd formation. It looks like cotton candy, caramel flavored. I found it really interesting that the sun was like a spotlight, because it was dark outside of the clouds as you can see at the edges of this photo.

I don’t have many angles to work with because of the trees in my neighbor’s yard, but this definitely works best for showing the origin of the light (at the bottom). I did most of my post-processing right in Adobe Camera Raw. To improve the look, all I did was increase the contrast and black levels, and then I added a bit more contrast with the curves tool.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/100, F4, 18mm, ISO200, 2008-08-19T20:04:27-04, 20080820-000427rxt

Location: 1832 Nelson Ave., Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7228

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.

17 Lessons from 17 Years

This is my first post as a 17 year old. The pivotal birthday was 2008 August 17, a Sunday. My youth is just slipping away. :grin: I’ve written this list of seventeen things I’ve learned over the years.

1. Passion is fleeting.

I used to be fascinated with the color blue. Then when I was 6 I switched to red. Around 14 I switched back to blue again. Now I’m starting to like green (notice my website’s colors?).

Don’t count on being dedicated to writing, piano, blogging, or photography all your life. Don’t root yourself in material mediums, because it doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is how you do it, or more clearly, what purpose it is for. My purpose is to courageously inspire and facilitate the worthy endeavors of others. I’m going to have to polish that up into a mission statement someday, but it’s a good place to start. I can look at anything I do and ask “is this doing that?” If it’s not, I drop it.

2. Be humble, not because it’s safe, but because it’s courageous.

It takes courage to admit ignorance, and you will never know everything, so you should always have humility. Even if you could know everything, you should stay humble because arrogance is bad form. Let your brilliance be self-evident in your projects and by the voices of others. Oh yes, I completely contradicted this when I named my blog “Brilliant Photography.” But I remain humble in my writings (smack me upside the head if I don’t).

Don’t be humble out of fear. You know someone is humble out of fear because he abandons his humility as soon as he becomes rich or famous or college-educated. A man who is humble for safety transforms into an evil monster once he believes he is in a position of unassailable authority.

3. Do good always.

Dedicate your life to the service of others rather than the acquisition of widgets. When you’re friends obsess over the collection of widgets, turn them to the side of light which involves abandoning the love of widgets. You need widgets, but only to help you to do good. Just like a need a camera for my photography, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to dedicate my life to the collection of expensive lenses.

Doing good always has lots of perks. When you do evil you have to slyly connive good people into helping you. You have to convince them that you’re doing good. It’s hard to manage. You may have to keep two sets of books, two websites, two mission statements, and a disguise, and if anyone finds out you’re behind the evil deeds, they’ll leave you if they’re good. But if you’re doing good to start with, you don’t have to hide in the shadows.

4. Be selfish sometimes.

But only when it facilitates you to do more good for others. I could go out and give my computer to a bum who would really make good use of it. But then I wouldn’t be able to do good for others with the computer, like what I’m writing here. If you give up every resource you have for the benefit of others, you’re on the wrong path entirely. From a pragmatic stance you’re being selfish, because you’re crippling your capability to help others by giving up all your tools now. You may as well donate both of your kidneys to charity. :grin:

5. Live beneath your means.

It isn’t reasonable to buy a million dollar house if you earn $50,000 per year, even if you can pay the mortgage each month. Even if you have been saving money for decades, it still isn’t reasonable because of the tremendous property taxes and maintenance costs. If you’re working at a normal job, and losing that job means you lose your house, you’ve sold a piece of yourself. You have to put up with flak and you’re living for others. Even a dumb 17 year old can see this is a bad idea. So if you are going to be an employee, make twice what you need and have a year’s salary in the bank. Then you don’t have to fear walking away.

6. Eliminate negativity from your life.

I did this passively when I was fired from my job. I was planning on hanging on there forever if not for the sudden firing, despite it being pointless except for the occasional paychecks. It’s better to take the initiative and eliminate negativity from your life, rather than waiting for negativity to eliminate you from its life. But when you recognize negativity that left on its own accord, you gain the power to courageously pick the higher path in the future, which is to take the initiative yourself. This means if you have a friend who is constantly asking you which hair curlers to buy, and she refuses to stop despite your prodding, tell her it’s over because of the hair curlers. Or, even better, write an article about it on your blog and then share it with her, so you’re contributing to a wider audience who wants to benefit from your expertise on hair curlers.

7. Put inspiration first.

It’s okay to focus on little details to make part of your life perfect. I’ve been doing a ton of that in the last week at Thripp.com, which is why you haven’t heard much for me. But only focus on the details when you don’t have the motivation to work on the big picture. Inspiration strikes randomly, so be sure not to reject it for trivia. I used to do this with my photography, where I’d see a beautiful sunset or fascinating patterns of light outside my window, but I’d continue working on editing old photos. By the time I’d get up to go outside, the magic would disappear. Now, I drop what I’m doing and run outside instead. It’s more fun that way.

8. Your time is valuable, computer time is not.

Leverage automated systems to do work for you, or build them yourself if you have to. For example I use WordPress with plugins (the network variant) to manage everything on this blog. A particular thumbnailing plugin makes posting my photography and creating galleries a breeze, because it generates all the thumbnails and displays them automatically. I just have to add a photo in one post and it appears all over the site. When I changed the site’s design last week, I went for big thumbnails. I just changed the plugin’s settings and deleted the old thumbnails, and it made new ones automatically. This uses more computer time (processing power) than doing everything by hand, but my time is more important than my server’s.

9. Presentation is important, to a fault.

I just spent a lot of time redesigning this blog, as you already know. But remember that there is a happy medium between good design and good content. If you spend all your time on presentation, you have a cake that’s all icing. A cake that’s all icing is an ugly, sickening pile of crap. You need something to complement the sweet icing, and that is a starch-packed vision. Good presentation and good ideas go together; having one without the other does not work.

10. Make a choice and stick with it.

If you’re going to buy blue shoes, don’t spend three weeks considering black shoes. It’s better to take action and be wrong than wait and never go anywhere because you have no shoes to wear. If you can’t choose, just ask, “is this going to kill me?” If the answer is no, pick the option on the left. It’s not important enough to dilly-dally on. I dilly-dallied over using Drupal for a while before choosing WordPress. I could have no website and nothing written and still be analyzing charts. That would be completely stupid. Just pick already.

11. Have one system.

I used to write phone numbers with the area code in parenthesis. But I stopped because you shouldn’t do that in file names for computers (parentheses and spaces are a no-no, especially in URLs). Hyphens are unambiguous. When there’s an equally good way to do something that yields less complexity, especially mental complexity, pick it instead, and apply it consistently across the board. I do that for my photos’ file names and my computer’s clock. You can see it on my blog. I use Universal Coordinated Time all over the place, which is 4 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (my time zone now) and 5 hours ahead during standard time. But it’s better because it’s standardized, and it’s become natural to me. (I look at 07:39:39 on my clock now and I instantly know it’s nearing 4 A.M. :cool: ).

12. Do it now.

It’s taking me a while to learn this one. It’s better to do things that are going to have to be done now than later. Especially stuff with rigid deadlines, like work and school assignments. When I go back to college on Monday (5 days away), I’m going to apply this lesson. Instead of putting off assignments till the last minute, I’m going to do them as soon as possible even if they aren’t due for months. I know already that even if it takes the same amount of time to do the projects, it will feel like I have more free time because my free time won’t be filled with the burden of worry. But it won’t take as long, because there is a significant loss of focus in shifting tasks and coming back to a project multiple times. This is multitasking’s downfall. Just do it already!

13. Don’t work pre-emptively.

This sounds contradictory to the above, but it means you should not take actions that you think you’re going to need later but you aren’t sure of yet. I could buy a new computer now, but then if I realize I’m perfectly happy with the computer I have now and keep the new machine in the box for three years, it’s a waste because in three years computers will be faster and cheaper. Or I could start writing my will now, but I’m probably going to be around for a long time. By the time I’m old and decrepit, my life’s mission will be so far evolved that the old will would be of no relevance. It would have to be rewritten from scratch. So by working pre-emptively, I’d end up doing double the work.

14. Stand for something.

Don’t live by the dogma of others, be it religious or organizational. Create your own dogma, because only you can know what’s right for you. I am not a feel-good writer. That’s what I said “can know.” Most people don’t know what’s right for them. That’s why they go with a dogma. They’re weaker and less clear-minded than the makers of the dogma, so it possesses them. If you’re living by the dogma of others, you’re standing for nothing. Man is not designed to live by a book. The ultimate purpose of a dogma is to crush your spirit, brainwash your mind, and transform you into a money-producing dogma-promoting drone. But no matter who you are, you can break free and expand your mind if you work hard enough at it.

15. Don’t write for the critics.

If you have a concept, and it has holes, but it’s so sharp and provoking that it has great merits despite the holes, and you can’t think of a way to patch the holes while keeping the edge, and you know it will inspire thought and analysis in the minds of others, then by all means, make the statement anyway, unabashedly and without shame. Don’t even mention the holes. Pretend it’s perfect. To 99% of your readers it will be. Don’t write for the poisonous 1%.

The mere fact that people are willing to read your writing means you have a captive audience. Your audience wants to hear your clear thoughts, and they’re predisposed to find the good in your writing. They are not hecklers nor critics. Hecklers cannot derive any value from your thoughts, because they refuse to open their mind to them before tearing them down. They will find fault, even if they have to create it.

People who write or speak for the critics use statements like “in my opinion,” “as far as I know,” “I think,” “almost,” and “some people” a lot. Instead, use “in fact,” “I know,” “everyone thinks,” “exactly,” and “all people.” Dare to make generalizations. Write and speak concisely. Even if you’re completely wrong, it’s a lot more interesting and you’re going to impact a lot more people.

16. Talk to everyone.

To borrow from The Simpsons, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met. You actually know everyone you don’t know, because there is an underlying connectedness between human spirits that transcends words. Most strangers won’t kill you. When I’m at the college campus, I generally have no fear of murder or bodily injury. In fact, I carry an $800 camera with me all the time, and nobody’s mugged me yet.

Dare to use your real and whole name, in person, on your blog, and on MySpace. Everything hides behind names like MrCool1234. When you get a comment from Richard X. Thripp, it cuts to the bone. You can’t make up names like that. Put your real identity behind your words. You’ll become so authentic, people will fear you.

While others live in their cozy shells, ignore the shells entirely and go right to the core. Ask a stranger about his life’s purpose, his story, and his accomplishments, and you’ll add to your own experience while raising his awareness.

17. Protect the sanctity of human life.

Human life is sacred and universally valuable. Animals are not people too. If my mother’s life was at stake, and I could kill a thousand cats to save her, I’d do it, because cats are worth nothing compared to humans. The value of the life of a cat pales next to a person. It’s not even a blip on the map.

Abortion is evil and any woman that kills her unborn child is a murderess. The highest purpose of a representative democracy is to protect the rights of man. [Note: direct democracies kill babies for the greater good. Jefferson hated them.] Our governments are openly destroying our rights, in an attempt to tear down 2000 years of Christian ethics. No, this is not dogma. If we don’t protect human life, then what do we have? We’re ants. Even ants take care of their young. Soon, we’ll be killing old people because they’re sick and bums because of their low quality of life.

If you campaign for animal rights, wake up. The rights of man are more important. Make a great impact, not a frivolous one. Start campaigning for human rights today. We shouldn’t have to campaign for them. They’re God-given; they should be recognized de facto. But “should of’s” get nothing done, so campaign anyway.

The final lesson: offend everyone.

Some of my readers will find point 17 quite offensive. Good. You can’t offend someone who knows the truth. The truth is that human life (and only human life) is sacred, and the only reason you’re offended is because you’re afraid of the truth, having lived under a dogma of death and lies.

If you offend someone, count it as a blessing. You’re making progress, huge progress. Obviously, don’t put your life in danger. But if your statement didn’t have an echo of truth, it would offend no one. No one can get an angry response from me by saying “you’re not on the right path with photography.” I love it and I know it’s a great talent to share. I can inspire others, I can change lives. I’m so secure in this knowledge, I can even write articles that totally contradict it without flinching. Only people living in fear can be offended.

Be bold, even on sensitive subjects. Be humble, not wishy-washy. Aspire to go further. And finally, live with courage, the courage to better yourself and the world.

Photo: Sunset

Sunset — a vivid, fiery mix of orange and white clouds at sundown

I saw the golden colors flooding in through the window just a few hours ago, so I rain out and snapped this photo of the gorgeous sunset that was gracing my front yard. I haven’t seen a sunset this impressive before. The swirls of clouds were awesome, and went far above what you see in the frame. I couldn’t fit them all in even at 18mm, which is as wide as the Canon Rebel XTi kit lens would go.

I punched the contrast up in Photoshop. The camera always captures images in such a dull way, but editing restores the beauty of the scene (Being a Free Photographer).

I literally ran out of the house to catch this, and kept taking pictures afterward, though they are less impressive. You have to work very quickly to get shots of sunsets; within ten minutes it had mostly faded away. I didn’t notice it while the clouds were forming like this; they may have looked even better then.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/200, F4.5, 18mm, ISO400, 2008-08-14T20:07:55-04, 20080815-000755rxt

Location: 1832 Nelson Ave., Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7228

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.

Talking to Rocks

I’ve found a powerful and time-saving technique for responding to long-winded critiques and challenges from others.

Give a short answer.

Not because a short answer is better, but because there’s no need for a long answer. A lengthy, elegant, point-by-point essay can be interesting, but it’s just more of the same because you’re engaging the criticism. That’s boring and expected. You give me any argument, and I can come up with a logical, point-by-point answer why it’s wrong. But when you fail to attempt this at all, you cut like a knife through your opponent’s inquiries. Basically, you’re saying, “your points are so pointless, they’re not even worth talking about.” There’s no need to say it so bluntly, because it’s just plain negative. A short, positive, deflective response is much better, because it has all the positive aspects of a negative response, but none of the ill will. It saves the time and energy of everyone.

This isn’t something you should do all the time. You will get great feedback and ideas occasionally, which you should not dismiss. Most often, these come not from your friends or family, but from people you don’t know. This is because strangers have a fresh, entirely unbiased interpretation of you. Unfortunately, 90% of all the criticism you receive isn’t worth a cent. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the people who say “your photography doesn’t make me think” or “anyone can do what you do, it’s all Photoshop.” I’ve gotten those comments before, and I’ve try to give an in-depth and convincing counter-argument, when really, I should be saying “Dude, you just don’t get it. I’m not making art for you.”

I’ve shared The Cancer Myth with people, and they’ve told me how I shouldn’t be pretending medical knowledge, nor supporting “treatment” that has not been double-blind tested / backed by the government / approved by Oprah. They’ll say stuff like “There’s no evidence to back it up. If what you say is true, then surely more people would know about it.” These people are rocks. You can’t talk to them. I’ve tried. I’ve written more about cancer in Conquering Big Problems, and I’m writing more about it here, but it doesn’t matter if I show a rock all this and a million case studies and a million eyewitness testimonials. It’s still a rock I’m talking to, and there can be no progress. [For my uninformed readers: cancer is a vitamin deficiency, the prevention and cure for which is vitamin B17, found in the seeds of apricots, apples, and other fruits, which you should start eating today. Apricot seeds have a hard shell. Use a nutcracker to get to the seed.]

Strangers, family, and friends alike are your brothers, because everyone is a part of the interconnected whole. But that doesn’t mean you should waste time talking to rocks when you could be connecting to people. Time is precious. There are 6.5 billion people in this world, and if you speak English, you can influence 1.5 billion of them. That’s a lot of people, and you can never live to help all of them. It’s a sin to waste your time on people who are rocks because they refuse to consider change.

Rocks are all around us. Don’t worry; if you’ve been open-minded to read this far, you are not a rock. A true rock would’ve left long ago. Rocks are not impermeable, but it takes tons of effort to overcome rockiness. It’s like painting a house with a toothbrush. You can’t make someone turn from a rock into a person. He has to do it himself, or consciously decide at the influence of others. Persistent pestering just makes a rock harden. Don’t dedicate your life to a rock; pick up and move on to the non-rocks in this world.

I meant to make this a short article, but it’s become decidedly un-short. When you have an open stage like a blog, you should go all out by covering a subject in more depth than anyone else dares to. You’re not just influencing one person. Through the magic of the Internets, you can be influencing tens of thousands of people everyday with just a few, permanent hours of writing. Plus, you easily be compensated for your contribution through advertising and affiliate commissions. It’s the business model of a newspaper, without the staggering printing bill.

The next time a rock attacks you, let it be like a knife through water. What you say doesn’t matter, because you’re talking to a rock. Say “Yeah, you’re right.” Not even a rock can argue with that.

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