You Do Not Control the World

Many bloggers believe in subjective reality. This means that your opinions influence your social interactions because they cause you to act unconsciously in ways that affect others, negatively or positively. If you want to be wealthy, be generous. If you want to be famous, harbor a positive attitude toward celebrities. If you want to be a writer, surround yourself with writers. If you want to be cured of cancer, think happy thoughts. You are not a subject of the world around you. The world around you is created by your mind. When you move from one room to another in your house, the other rooms cease to exist, because they are no longer being perceived by you.

Subjective reality means that you are responsible for whatever happens to you. If someone cuts you off in traffic, it’s your fault. You manifested it by thinking bad thoughts. If your wife leaves you, you could’ve stopped it by being more attractive. If you find $800 in the parking lot near K-Mart, congratulate yourself for attracting wealth. You must have opened your mind to receive that gift from the universe. Whenever you talk about someone else, you are talking about yourself, because there is only consciousness, and that is either your own or the shared consciousness of humanity. Your pick.

Most people blame other people or circumstances for everything bad that happens to them. When something good happens, they count it as luck. Subjective reality is very empowering in the beginning because it requires you to take responsibility for everything. Nothing is left to chance. All of the sensory input you receive is a manifestation of your inner self. Believe that aliens are visiting us? You will see UFOs and take them to be aliens. They might even beam you up and show you around. Believe that is hogwash? You will see UFOs and dismiss them as ordinary planes.

However, some people take this too far. The model of subjective reality requires that you dismiss negative stimuli, because dwelling on the negative will allow it to invade your life. However, in the subjective reality model, anything negative that happens to you is a manifestation of your own desires. If you are raped, it is because you wanted to be raped. If you fail a test, it is because you wanted to fail. You created the intention to fail, and the universe granted you your wish. Subjective reality extremists dwell on these negatives, believing them to be their downfall. They create a loop of negativity which turns them into walking zombies.

I believe in subjective reality, insofaras that if you radically change your thoughts, your experience of reality will radically change. This may be due to a change in your perceptions or behavior, and that will influence other people. Your body language will change. Your aura will change. You may not even notice. It doesn’t matter the cause—the result is the same. Your reality changes. However, to truly be a subjective realist, you have to let it all go.

The power in subjective reality is believing that you make things happen, rather than the traditional belief that things happen to you. You take the initiative. You are proactive rather than reactive. However, believing that you control the world is what subjective reality ultimately entails. The laws of physics only apply to you because you believe they exist. If you completely let your belief in physics go, you can turn into a soap bubble and float to the ceiling. If you are unable to do this, you have not let your belief go. Gravity only applies to you because you believe in it. This can never be disproven, because the subjective realist will say that you are unable to float because you still believe in gravity, no matter how much you have convinced yourself otherwise. If you believe that the universe is constant and stable, it will be. If you believe that it is chaotic and unstable, with laws changing from one moment to the next, through time and space, that will be true also.

If you are an objective realist and you switch to subjective reality, letting your belief in gravity go so that you can float, even upon accomplishing this, you cannot prove it from an objective standpoint because you are not presently in one. Switching between subjective and objective reality removes all credibility from the contents of your mind. When a person has a mental breakdown, nobody ever fully trusts him again, because his mind has demonstrated measurable failure. When you switch between subjective and objective reality, all your previous experiences cannot be trusted, because they were created by your imagination. If a subjective realist turns into a soap bubble and floats to the ceiling in the presence of an objective realist, the objective man will not be able to perceive it. The subjective man will. Subjectively, the objective man cannot see the soap bubble because he does not believe such a feat to be possible. Objectively, one of the two men must be mistaken. Who is hallucinating? No one knows.

From a truly subjective standpoint, all your perceptions are hallucinations. Thus the word has no meaning. You believe whatever you want to believe. You see whatever you want to see. You control the world.

I believe that you do NOT control the world. Surely you can influence it, but you cannot simply wish away the crimes of the world by refuting their existence. That is doublethink. True subjective realists will bring 1984 to us, because they will change the history books and believe it themselves, because they believe that truth is whatever they want it to be. This is tyranny.

My form of subjective reality is limited. While you create your own destiny in this life, there are still immutable laws of physics. They are far more complicated than we believe. We may never be able to fully document them. That does not mean they do not exist. Past and future events do not change. They may change for you upon receiving new information, but this does not mean history has changed. If you saw the newspaper that said all passengers from the Titanic were saved, you believed it. When you read the correction, your perception of history changed, but history did not change. You just received bad information. A whole bunch of bad information can totally mess up your reality.

Hardcore subjective realists will say that you cannot limit subjective reality—it is all or nothing. However, if I believe it strongly enough, does that not make it true? :wink:

Attachment to Word Count

In kindergarten, children are given writing assignments that are ten words minimum. Your high school final essay probably had a length requirement of 3000 words. A doctoral thesis is often required to be 30,000 words plus a bibliography.

Just like age for rights such as driving, smoking, and drinking alcohol, the word count has become the de facto standard for measuring content. Similarly, both age and word count are largely irrelevant. We use the most useless measurement of content not because it has merit, but because it is easy to use.

Novels are supposed to be 80,000 words. If you write a pulp fiction novel that is 200,000, good luck getting it published, even if it’s the next Harry Potter.

The attachment to the word count manifests itself most obviously in the padding of statements and sentences to increase the word count while adding no content. Notice the previous sentence… it is written in the word-count style. It is a sentence a student would write to stretch his essay from 990 words to 1000 words without writing anything. It could easily be rewritten: “People add fluff to increase their word count.” But no, that will not do, because we want to make it to 1000 words! It doesn’t matter that the shorter sentence is more powerful.

I have a case of word-count-itis on this blog. If I write a long article, I boast in the opening paragraph that it is “5000 words.” Every post has a word count below its title. I have a blog-wide word count displayed in my sidebar (currently 183,363), and I’ve set a goal of reaching 250,000 by the end of the year. As I type this, a word count is being updated, in real time, right below my text box. WordPress believes word counts are just that important. Unfortunately, the lie has rubbed off on me.

Word counts mean NOTHING. They are no more an indicator of depth or quality than the number of e’s you use, whether you use serial commas, or your preference for semicolons. Sentence counts mean nothing. Page counts mean nothing. The only thing that has meaning is the quality of your writing, and that isn’t even about grammar. It is about style. It is ephemeral. It can only be evaluated by a trained mind reading your work with enthusiasm, and even then the evaluation will be subjective. Writing is an art form.

But professors don’t want to deal with art; they want to be methodical. When you have a college English class of 36 students, and you have 6 similar classes all with essays to grade, you have no time to evaluate your students based on their essays’ artistic merits. Even evaluating their analytical or factual merits is a stretch. Professors have lives, and they don’t want to spend five minutes grading each essay if it will take them 15 hours to finish them all (180 essays). As a student, your feedback is reduced to a few check marks for grammar and spelling, red marks for the intricacies of MLA formatting, and a word count or page count check. Then you get a token letter grade and move on.

Evaluating an essay by word count is like evaluating a human by I.Q. score. It just doesn’t work.

The flaws in this assembly-line system are not the issue. The issue is that the quantity over quality approach is ingrained in the minds of our students from 5 to 22. It is no surprise that none of these students become great writers, because they never overcome the factory system. It is not true that good writing requires meager output. You can write a thousand-word essay everyday, and you will be a force to be reckoned with if you write about what you love with passion, knowledge, and experience. If I was in my college English class I would not be allowed to use “a force to be reckoned with” because it is a “cliché.” I’ve got news for you: so is everything ever written.

How many high school writing assignments begin with “write about whatever interests you?” I don’t mind if they go on to say “cite your sources, use peer-reviewed articles, and use proper arguments.” The fact of the matter is that almost every writing assignment you will ever be given will specify the topic for you. Good writers don’t become good in class or by pandering to the whims of their bosses. Good writers become good by writing not necessarily what they have a passion for, but what they have experience with. This will always be nonfiction, even if it is branded a fiction novel with renamed characters and an altered plotline. It does not matter if you have all the passion in the world for World of Warcraft; if you just started it yesterday and are on level 2, you won’t be able to write anything useful.

Unfortunately, this is why there are so many personal development topics I can’t cover adequately. At seventeen, I simply do not have enough experience.

A strong 400 word essay like Don’t Multitask is much more valuable than a 2100 word pile of garbage like Conquering Big Problems: An Introduction, which ironically is not an introduction and conquers nothing at all. Fortunately I did not continue that white elephant. Now, if we are going on word counts, and I submitted either essay to my professor for an assignment which required a minimum of 1000 words, which would get the higher grade? The 400 word essay would get a D and the 2100 word essay would get a B. It doesn’t matter if half the problems article was written in Swahili. Word count would rule again, even though it is as important as the weight of the paper I use.

Defying our attachment to word count is near impossible. I don’t even know how to do it, but I know that it starts with disabling that word counter. When I see a great writer like Steve Pavlina bragging that his latest article was “more than 9000 words,” so long that he had to split it up, and he does so in italics, at the top of the article, and without mentioning the value of the words, I realize how deep our love affair with the word count goes.

Slay the word count beast. Take the first step by not bragging about the word counts of your blog posts, unless the blog post is about word counts. And if you’re writing a lot of those, you’re in deep trouble because word counts don’t matter. This post has stretched to 1000+ words, though I’m sure a more competent writer could’ve done it with 500.

The second step is to remove the word counters from your blog. For now, I am too attached.

Photo: Life in the Fast Lane

Life in the Fast Lane

Looking back at a sunset on a busy road from a moving van. The road is Nova Road in Ormond Beach, Florida (could be county or Holly Hill, not sure). The colors really caught my eye. The setting is less than ideal, but it’s the best I could muster as the sunset faded quickly.

I added a lot of contrast and some vignetting. After using curves, I toned down the saturation with the sponge manually in the areas that were too bright to print.

Canon PowerShot SD790 IS, 1/60, F2.8, 6.2mm, ISO160, 2009-07-01T20:33:10-04, 20090702-003310rxt

Location: Nova Rd. and Hand Ave., Ormond Beach, FL  32174

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.

Stop Observing

One problem avid photographers have is they observe everything but experience nothing. Instead of being in the pool, they’re taking pictures of people in the pool. This becomes so natural to them that they never participate in everything. Photography becomes one big excuse to sit on the sidelines at every event.

You can learn plenty from observation, but you reach the limit quickly where you’d be better off ditching the camera, sketchpad, or notepad to get your hands dirty. You cannot become a good speaker from merely reading great speeches—you have to take the podium yourself someday, frightening as it may be.

One place where people are observers is in technology. I put off getting a decent computer for five years, all the way till 2006, because I was afraid that it would be quickly outdated. Of course this was foolish since even though I was right, the immediate gains are worth far more than the eventual losses. It’s the same thing in photography, where putting off getting a good camera for a while will cost you photographic opportunities in the present. While compact cameras aren’t getting much better anymore (just noisier), they and DSLRs are getting cheaper so people still find plenty of reason to not invest in good equipment, even if they consider themselves good photographers.

I did this for years also, working with a junky point-and-shoot till I got my Canon Rebel XTi in 2007 August. Now I’m using a Canon 10MP point-and-shoot and I love it, only reserving the SLR for occasional use. Hmm… If I’d spent my time observing I’d still have a Fuji A360. Although I mostly observe as a photographer. :grin:

One problem I have is I spend far too much time reading other blogs and not enough writing on my own. Reading other peoples work doesn’t take you very far. You need to be writing your own stuff to experience vast improvement. Ironically, observing the efforts of others becomes more valuable after you’ve done work on your own, because you have the expertise to recognize their strengths and follies, and to use them for your own benefit.

Therefore, you should mix observing and doing to glean the most from both. However, most people do more observing, so the title of this encourages you to start doing. If you spend three hours a day watching comedy shows, why not film one of your own? Even if you’re the only character in it and you play all the parts, it’s a start.

It’s scarier to write a blog post than to read five blog posts… but what your scared of is what helps you to grow the most. Stop observing, start doing.

Southern North Virginia

A comedy skit I wrote:

Did I tell you that I’m going to be staying in North Virginia this summer? Every time I go there, my mother KILLS me! She says I don’t visit enough.

Oh, you mean North Virginia as in *North* Virginia?

SOUTHERN North Virginia.

Do you really mean to tell me, that, that you’ll be staying in SOUTHERN North Virginia?

Well yeah, of course. Why is that such a surprise to you?

And, and your mother will be staying there too?

I hope so.

Why would you wish such a thing on her?

It’s where she lives! What are you stupid? All the great Smiths retire to Southern North Virginia. A few of them even like it better in South Virginia.

South Virginia? No way! I hear it’s too hot there.

It ain’t that bad, try Florida if you want hot.

I had no idea that, that you and your family were such bad people.

Now why would you say a thing like that about my family?

Most of the good people I know… well, they go to North Virginia.

Some of the really good ones go to NORTH North Virginia.

I knew a bank robber once, and he went to South Virginia.

Another guy was a rapist, and he went to SOUTH South Virginia.

Well what does that have to do with anything?

I just thought, you see, that you were a good family man… and you went to church every Sunday… and you were on the mission for four years… yet now I find out it all means nothing. What kind of game are you playing with me? Is your life all a lie?

Listen, I’m only going to South North Virginia because my mother couldn’t afford to move further North. She wanted to be near the rest of the family.

NEAR the rest of the family? Why would she want to suffer through that?

Now your insulting my family? What’s with you today?

What about the gnawing nervousness and guilt?

We keep it under control.

Maybe I should come too. I had no idea that pugatory was such a fun place!

Pugatory? What’s that have to do with anything?

Well, you said… that your mother was going to kill you. I assumed you were talking about the afterlife.

She doesn’t kill me, she just scolds me. You have to stop being so literal.

Oh, so now you tell me you’re not very literal.

Of course.

Most of the good people I know would be shocked by that. They’re very literal. My mother, she was a saint, and she was the most literal person I know…

Grade Creep

Especially in the last decade colleges have become biased toward giving higher grades for poorer results. For a trigonometry test several semesters back, I ended up with 30 bonus points for acing the advance quizzes. While I got a modest 84 on the test, this turned into a mighty 114 with the extras. Mind you, my grade was not capped at 100, but the 14 overage would apply to other sub-par test scores. The net effect was an easy A in the class. The standard for a good grade is steadily creeping downward.

The standard maximum GPA was a 4.0, but now with honors classes, which are supposedly harder than their traditional counterparts, GPAs can soar to 4.5 and beyond. These classes do not compare to the college-level English and arithmetic taught to the students of Lincoln’s day. No–it was in those days that the condescending moniker, “higher education,” truly lived up to its name. It was not uncommon for half of a pre-graduate class to miserably fail.

Nevertheless, test scores are plummeting–it seems the more bonuses and concessions we pile on, the WORSE students do. All of the sudden mediocrity is excellence and is awarded A’s. A new standard for success emerges, one far more base than that of yesterday’s scholars.

Some teachers find students skipping vital tests or even finals. This is due to a new practice where the lowest score for any test in the class is dropped, as if the failure never took place. Often, if the test score on the final exam is higher than the lowest score on the junior tests, the final counts for both, erasing the lowest test grade. All of the sudden, a final that counted for 20% of the class grade gets a boost to 30%. This allows for amazing comebacks gradewise, at the expense of seriously downgrading the standards for academic achievement. Sometimes, even the final will be dropped if the previous tests warrant it, resulting in students skipping the most important test of they merited high marks on all the others.

I’ve even seen professors whore out bonus points for making donations to charity, attending far-flung theatre events or presentations that may or may not require admission fees, or, get this–putting your name on a test. Assuming the coursework is not significantly harder than the classes of other instructors (it never is), this is the equivalent of taking a gigantic dump on the grade scale. Is it a C or is it a D? Who cares, give it an A! Everyone else is doing it. Grades mean nothing anyway. This way, the school makes more money as fewer people drop out! It’s all about profit! Everyone knows college is a fraud designed to waste your time and drain your bank account anyway. Why continue hiding it?

Is that not what it is all about, anyway? Draining bank accounts. My calculus class requires a book that retails for $200 and second-hands for $150. Tuition fees are increasing exponentially as the Florida BrightFutures scholarship program and countless others face the chopping block. Degree requirements become ever more stringent–today’s Master’s degree is tomorrow’s Bachelor’s degree.

Especially with the U.S. economy and dollar crashing due to the sprawling American Empire (Roman Empire pt. 2), the artifical system of certificate == huge pay increase is going to fall. When it does, you will have to provide real value to make money. Save for a few advanced fields, your degree means nothing because it doesn’t amount to one-tenth the equivalent time in real experience. There are so many jobs that can just as easily be mastered with apprenticeships rather than multiple-choice testing. Teachers, librarians, doctors (general practitioners), photographers, musicians, artists, philosophers, sociologists, surveyers, social workers, even engineers; the list of what does not require a four-year degree goes on and on. This is why technical colleges are taking off: they cut through the B.S.

Can’t we just admit it? Higher education is a fraud. The standards become progressively lower as students become progressively more disgraceful to match. The college experience is no more than a disgusting excuse to leech off one’s parents for far longer than one should. Your degree? A steaming pile of crap. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even make good toilet paper.

I will be returning to Daytona State College 2009 fall for Calculus II. I will be using the $200 book that is also good for Calculus I and III. I bought the teacher’s edition (free to teachers, illegal to resell) online for $46.

The next time someone tells you how smart their college educated daughter is, show them this article and stick your nose up.

Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

The Pyramids were Built by Aliens

Hello folks. I haven’t been doing much of anything recently. I’ve been working on a summer course in computer programming and doing photography on and off.

My spring project was an open-source integrated library system (ILS) in PHP called Bookley. It allows you to manage patrons, items, check-ins and check-outs, renewals, fines, records, cover scans, and more. Try it out if you want to set up your own public or private library. It’s over 4000 lines of code and took 120 hours to program.

Th8.us has been going down a lot lately, but I fixed this today by removing lists of URLs and hit counters (resource hogs). This site and Th8.us will be rock-solid now.

I will be blogging, Twittering, commenting, and posting photos regularly again. In fact, I think I have more than ever to blog about.

If you haven’t heard, there is a lot of evidence that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by aliens. Mainly, it consists of two million stones weighing 5000 pounds each quarried five miles away. The theory is they rolled them on logs to transport them, but the logs would be worn after each stone and would likely get bogged down in the sand. This means new logs would be needed for each of the two million stones, which is unlikely because Egypt is a desert with few trees. If it was built in 13 years, this means one stone was added every three minutes and thirty-five seconds, which I find implausible. If they stopped working at nights, that means an even faster pace. Aliens built it before they were here. Egyptians kept no records of the construction of the Pyramids.