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Don’t Multitask

Multitasking just wastes too much time I find. I try to switch from one thing to another, and then forget what I was doing and lose more time than it’s worth re-orienting myself. It’s probably the same for you.

I’ve been trying to just focus on one particular task and get it done, like I did today in creating my free stock gallery. Granted, there were some unwanted interruptions, like phone calls from tele-marketers. If what you’re working on is really important, just turn off the phone. This includes sleep.

The only time I see a need for this needless thrashing about (*answers phone*), is if there’s something that takes a while to complete on it’s own. Like for my stock gallery, it took a couple hours to upload the photos to my server, so I took that time to do other things, because there’s no use waiting around for it to get done. Same if you’re baking a turkey in the oven, or waiting for a garden to grow (heaven forbid you should call that multi-tasking).

The problem with this, is that it’s often hard to judge which processes you should wait for, and which ones you should divert your attention to something else for while they complete. If it takes less than a minute for me to load a photo in Photoshop, it isn’t worth checking my email in the interim (email is a big waste of time anyway). In fact, I’d say anything you have to wait less than a minute for doesn’t deserve multitasking. Drink some water or twiddle your thumbs for that time; you’ll get more done in the long run.

There are benefits to stretching yourself thin, but the costs are quite high to start with. Only do it if you’re waiting for automated processes to complete, or if you’re under strict deadlines requiring you to shift focus. If those deadlines are self-imposed by your over-zealous to-do list, reorganize it to break your tasks into batches, rather than a collection of little chunks. Multitasking is like having a fragmented hard drive—it slows everything down. In fact, even do away with the to-do list and commit everything to memory, because it’s enough of a distraction to have to keep referring back to a list of what you should be able to memorize. I haven’t kept a to-do list in years.

My New Plan

What I wrote about here was a no. Disappointing.

I put up a little sign above my computer that says “$20/day.” That’s how much I need to make (from this blog) to replace the income from my job. If I can do that, I can do anything.

What I need to do now, is to make this site such a great resource that generating that much revenue is a cinch. I’m on the way, but I’ve got the weekend to focus. I’m going to start a section for desktop wallpapers. My photos make great wallpapers.

2008-06-14 Update: I had an even bigger idea! I released all my portfolio as royalty-free stock. Read about it, or start browsing the stock gallery.

Fear is Evil

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. It’s been busy for me… mainly because I have school and work (20 hours per week for the summer). And that’s right in the middle of the week (Monday-Thursday), where it keeps me busy.

Anyway, I’m trying now to switch jobs… to move back to the Ormond Beach library from Holly Hill (I’ve written of the two on my about page). My boss isn’t being nice to me. I told her that maybe she shouldn’t go into library service, because she doesn’t seem to enjoy the work. That hit close too home apparently, so now she’s threatening to fire me for being disrespectful. I didn’t know it was so easy to fire a public servant.

I can definitely see her reaction is rooted in fear rather than reason. Now, I have little bias for emotion or reason… half the time emotion is intuition, and that is a great skill to have. For the other half, the emotion is fear. Fear-based decisions are never good. They distract your focus and weaken your resolve. You get stuck in a repetitive loop of non-achievement.

What I told her, is pretty much the same thing I’ve been feeling myself. Librarianship is a public good and a necessary field, but I haven’t been seeing it as my best way to contribute to the world. Why should I limit myself to the narrow medium of reference requests, when I can be helping people everywhere, on a much broader level? I think my photography does that. I give out print copies often, and hear how people find it beautiful and inspiring. Actually, I’ve never heard those exact words… but a lot of stuff like it. Photography hasn’t been profitable, but that’s in part because I haven’t tried hard enough. I’ve said for a while (two years) that I shouldn’t play photography as a career. Because it’s like acting; 1 in 100 make it big, while the other 99 scrape by lifting food from dumpsters and praying for death (okay, it isn’t quite that bad). And of course, a civil service job is more “stable” and “dependable” than anything I could possibly do in photography or on my own.

But when you have someone threatening to fire you for no reason, it sure doesn’t seem stable. No, it seems highly unstable. Like, the dumbest decision I could ever make.

Dad’s going to take me down to the other branch in about five hours, so I can pitch a transfer (4 A.M. here now). I have a lot of old friends at Ormond.

In truth, my whole bias against photography has been rooted in fear. It’s a shame, really. I don’t enjoy going out and trying to sell people print copies, or begging for assignments, or cutting my rates of eighty dollars hourly. But I’m liking publishing my work on my own website with contextual advertising (Google AdSense). And it’s been making money consistently… twenty cents per day so far this month. That’s not much, but I see a lot of potential there.

I can’t believe it’s just six months ago that I started my own website, or two months since I left deviantART. I used to post all my photos there, and only there. Then for four months, here and there. And for the past two, just here. Very nice, having everything under my control, and not being subject to their rules. There’s no future in contributing your work to another website, just like there’s no future in contributing your work to any employer but yourself. Ironic, since just three weeks ago I created thripp.com, a social network where people do just that. Oh well.

By the way, I have my own ads on my members’ pages. So the 20 cents per day may be coming from here or there; I haven’t been tracking it. I get as many visitors here as on all the other thripp.com pages, so it’s probably an even split.

The whole idea of having a job, where you have a “boss,” and are “trained” in certain tasks, and you have “policies” to follow, and you can be “disciplined” for having improper “behavior.” This is for training a dog, right? Pets of some sort, surely. No? And using this, as a “boss,” to expect false complimentary treatment, is the ultimate in weakness.

I’m going to find trouble, no matter what job I go to, eventually, no matter how good it seems at first. Because I don’t hold the keys, and I’ve given up my time for a much less valuable resource, money. I do refuse to give up my individuality, and that is a most upsetting thing to any employer.

I like policies like this. “Performance Management.” Every bit of the terminology is meant to dehumanize. I’m glad Volusia County is still using “personnel.” “Human resources” is the new buzzword, and it surely serves to further devalue the sanctity of human life. As if people are a “resource,” to be “used,” to be leveraged, like you would lumber or a reserve of oil.

First you devalue everyone with this sort of terminology. Then you attack the young (abortion), and then the old (euthanasia), and then the sick (euthanasia again), and then the poor, and then the weak. Then you attack a good, mostly wholesome religion (Christianity) by demanding its removal from public view. And finally, you put a wall between the parent and the child through a “public” school system, where you indoctrinate in the dogma of the state. But call it “teaching.” Always call it teaching.

And what do you teach? Stuff like global warming, “over” population, how wonderful the American Indian savages were, and what terrible people we are for having displaced them (it wasn’t us, it was a dozen generations back), how animals have human rights, how we’re killing the Earth and the planet would be better off with us all dead, and how cancer is killing us because we’re producing evil carcinogens. You teach “affirmative” action and reparations as blessings, to reinforce that we are not born free and equal, but that debts can carry over across generations. I refuse to take blame for the evil doings of my slave-owning ancestors. We already know the cure and prevention for cancer (vitamin B17), but it has to be covered up, hidden like a dagger would be hidden from a child. You make us read stories like The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (college for me), to polarize us on the one versus the many. And then you tell us that trumping the rights of the one is in fact good, because he wouldn’t appreciate freedom anyway.

Pragmatism, that’s the name of the game. It takes good people to do bad things, and the ideal of pragmatism is unmistakably good. To do the greater good for the greater number of people. It’s applying the principles of triage to every aspect of life. So if we can kill fifty people to save five-hundred, then that’s the only way to go. Maybe it isn’t kill. It’s just maim. Or injure. Or to exercise eminent domain. Not even bodily injury. Just theft of property. Surely that must be alright?

But it isn’t right, because orthodoxies never work out. An invisible hand is always pushing them further, breaking through a glass wall at the edge of a cliff. Further, further, in the name of courage, of growth, of safety, of freedom. Orthodoxies are always suicidal. We have a government that was founded with a true attempt of upholding the principles of liberty and freedom. We have a Constitution and a Declaration that try so hard to maintain our God-given rights, even in the face of a vocal, unbelieving majority who wants to slay us for the good of the whole. But there is no whole. The whole is an illusion. We are not the Borg. All we are is many individuals. “The greater good for the greater number” is not one versus one, it’s a whole bunch of individuals that are all going to be hurt because other individuals think that causing pain for those few is best for people other than them. It’s never out of direct selfishness. Selfishness does not work as a motivator. The most-evil people really think they’re looking out for the good of others. For their friends. Perhaps they aspire to lofty ideals like standing up for the rights of humanity. But they’re always misguided. Suicidal, if I may repeat myself. Because they’re a part of a suicidal system of hatred and distrust, without even knowing it themselves. You’re contributing to this system, on a small scale, if you work in a “normal” job. I am too.

On 2008 June 5, the Volusia County council passed an ordinance mandating the sterilizations of all dogs and cats. I love this description from a website called News for Florida Animal Advocates.

One breeder, Kathy Lucas of Seminole County, complained to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “We don’t need to lose another one of our rights. Our animals are our property.” Fortunately, this opinion– that animals are not individuals, but objects to be used for profit– was not shared by a majority of the council.

Animals are property. Their our slaves; we can do with them what we please. A dog does not experience spiritual growth. A dog does not aspire to be better than he is. A dog does not invent. A dog is a poor substitute for a child. A dog does not have a soul. You know this; we all know this, yet it is too soon forgotten on the crusade for animal rights.

The kicker, is that Volusia County’s new law is actually a step down for animal rights, if we’re comparing them to the rights of humans. Because we do not forcibly sterilize people. Yet. That’s the path we’re on, sadly. And when you talk like the above quote; that animals as “individuals” have the inherent “right” to be sterilized, then you’re cheapening us too. First your comparing animals (sub-human) to humans, and then you’re saying that we should neuter them; an action base and contempt if they’re human. But it’s for the greater good. It always is.

For people, we have abortion already, which is as contemptible as any crime. In fact, if I do apply pragmatic ethics to the murder of a human baby (infanticide), I find it’s even more evil than the murder of an adult. If you must kill, kill someone who has a fighting chance. Not someone weak and defenseless, who is innocent and perfect. But even with better (more Christian) ethics, it’s still a murder, just as killing a ninety-year-old lady is murder. No jury says “Ah, she’s old. Let him go.” Because human life is inherently, consistently, and continually sacred. It does not change with the times. If there is one absolute ideal, this is it.

Continuing on our path, we will be neutering people. Not you or me. Never us. First it’s the insane, the sick, the genetically deformed. They did it in Nazi Germany, we can do it here. Then the invisible hand of good people doing evil will push it further. The United States already did it this time last century. I’m saddened by it all.

Every bit of this is rooted in fear. Fear of loss: of the status quo, of our current, wonderful lives, of “wasted” time (in the workplace), or otherwise. I can’t think of all the reasons for fear at the moment, but there are plenty, and the feeling is the cause of so many inadvertent, yet evil and destructive actions.

Our government needs to stick to what it’s good for—keeping the peace and protecting human life. Not protecting animals, not indoctrinating our children, not even establishing public libraries. But the government isn’t even fulfilling its core mission at the moment.

Courage always comes from within. Courage, growth, safety, freedom, all these are traits that only you can manifest within yourself. No government, no code of ethics, no church, no workplace bureaucracy can instill them within you, nor can you instill them within the collective on anything more than an individual’s level. And you don’t develop these strengths by working in a normal job, or by two decades of public schooling. You don’t even become human.

I’m posting this in a new section called personal development. My first article, retro-actively, is The Irrationality of Apportionment. Hopefully writing like this will help me to develop as a person. Now, I have some photography to get back to.

The Irrationality of Apportionment

I remember in 1st grade, doing calculations on how much time I’d spend, say, brushing my teeth each day. If I use five minutes per day on that, that’s 1825 minutes per year, or 30 hours, or a whole school week! My, how much time that was wasting! That’s 2% of my life!

Of course, keeping your teeth clean is very important, a task well worth 2% of your time. But it is when we apply this sort of bean-counting to everything we do, that we run into problems.

When you try to break your day down into minutes and then assign chunks of them to certain projects, like “shoot creative photos for thirty minutes,” it works well on paper, but then in practice it falls flat. You might not even notice it at first. You’ll be busy following the list you made to the letter, taking photos that are decidedly uncreative, thinking you’re making some big accomplishment. Then when you’re waxing the car (or whatever the hip thing is to do nowadays), and you see some great scene like Leafy Sunset 6, you’ll ignore it because it’s not on your list. You’ll miss out on all sorts of opportunities.

You can’t schedule creativity or inspiration. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you can’t schedule your life. Sure, you can make a “schedule” and follow it, but it’s not going to be any better than what you’d do applying yourself without confinement, nor will it wring an ounce of efficiency out of you.

Apportionment’s real value is in building discipline. Once you’ve become disciplined, meaning that you’ve found goals worth focusing on and you’re working toward them, scheduling is just a waste of 2% of your life itself, because you’re so in tune with your work that rigidity shackles your powerful spirit, rather than channeling a weak, uncommitted one (which probably isn’t worth channeling anyway). It’s a lesson that lasts a lifetime, but the lesson itself doesn’t need to take a lifetime. In fact, when I say 2%, it’s often more like 30%. Read stuff like Me and GTD: my worrying addiction to getting organised and Could GTD be harmful? for an example. GTD = Getting Things Done = scheduling to the max. Of course, I’ve been talking more of creative arts rather than the mundane chores apportionment is more often applied to. But I find that apportionment only makes those chores more undesirable; you’re actually less likely to follow through than you would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a rigid schedule.

Further, you have so much untapped creative potential that organizing what you have is going to produce far less than cultivating what you don’t. Work on your strengths, and many other things will fall into place. Hone the talents you already have, rather than the ones you don’t. See the big picture, rather than immersing yourself in the tiny details. This is the difference between someone who keeps a messy desk and gets work done, versus someone who meticulously keeps a clean desk but gets work done. Right now, my desk is covered in piles of school papers, photography accessories, and junk mail needing discarded, yet I’m getting more work done than if I fixed those problems and came back. And the “work” is fun, because I’ve been wanting to write something about this sort of work for a while.

One place you’ll find people often using apportionment is in restricting addictive time-sinks, like emails, blog stats, RSS feeds. You might say, “I will only check these once a day, because they continue pulling me from my work while providing no value.” The immediate problem with this, is that you’re working from a negative perspective rather than a positive one; you’re trying to remove the distractions, rather than let the distractions remove themselves. And they will remove themselves if what you’re focused on is so engrossing that it captures your undivided attention. You’ll see this often, with children playing video or computer games, or younger children making buildings out of blocks. That kind of masterful focus is something we lose when we grow up, instead trying to substitute kludges like demands and scheduling. But if we can get back in the flow to begin with, all of this becomes mere child’s play.

So get back into that flow. If you’re passion isn’t providing that sort of in-built noise filtering, you’re approaching it from the wrong angle or it isn’t right to start with. If you don’t schedule, you don’t have to be afraid of change, and change is much better mastered than feared.

The Profit Police and How They Kill Everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I added to the goal, have a blog:

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

And, sharing my knowledge on playing the piano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Concisely

New Year’s Day. A time to make commitments for self-improvement and then break them a week later. I have one I’m going to keep.

My resolution is to speak and write concisely and correctly. While filler and disfluencies are excusable in speech, in print they are intolerable. Rewriting is writing, so the standards are higher because you can polish your work easily. “Kinda,” “sort of,” “like,” “more than,” and “less than” have no place in writing. If I ever use “in all circumstances that I know of,” yell at me to replace it with “always.” More examples:

• Don’t say “America has over 300 million people,” say “America has 300 million people.” We know what you mean.

• Use “always” and “never.” English is a language for humans, not computers—treat it as such. If you are wrong, plenty of people would love to correct you.

• We have plenty of words already; don’t make new ones up. “Servers” are waiters and waitresses. A “chair” is a chairman or chairwoman. Unless you are referring to a woman or women specifically, he, waiter, and chairman will do just fine. Don’t use they in place of he; it’s imprecise and dehumanizing. Gender inclusivity is a crock.

• Don’t use “special” to describe the retarded. It takes away from people who really are special.

• All our jungles have disappeared and been replaced with rainforests, while all our swamps have become wetlands. How did this happen?

• People are not sewers! Have a little respect for our tailors and seamstresses.

A lot of the Newspeak doesn’t even make sense. What is a “flight attendant” anyway? I know what a steward is (female: stewardesses), but isn’t a flight attendant anyone who has ever been on (attended) a plane?

English is losing its humanity. Don’t let them steal our language.

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