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Making Up for Lost Time

Wasted time can never be reclaimed, because you never have the opportunity to repeat the past. Therefore, you must make sure you are working toward your goals and making the best use of each and every day.

If you find you have wasted months or years of your life as I have, nothing good can come from dwelling on it, as this only wastes more time. The only thing we can do is learn from the past and not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

Average people waste most of their lives. Watching T.V., surfing the Internet, playing video games, reading fiction, pointless conversations, Facebook, day-dreaming, over-sleeping—eliminate this from the average person’s life and you will see their productivity triple. People who seem like super-humans are actually ordinary—they just don’t waste their time on garbage which takes up 12 hours of an ordinary person’s day. Even replacing television with doing nothing is a step up. Just call it meditation and you are instantly a monk or philosopher.

Anything important can be measured—save a few intangibles like intelligence. Schools and colleges measure your academic worth through exams and graded assignments. Employers measure your worth as a slave with performance reviews. And you can measure your productivity by recording how you use every hour of your time. Though this is something I’ve never done, I imagine it would greatly boost my creative output. There’s no point doing it now—I already know I’m nowhere near optimal efficiency—but in a few months small optimizations will become important.

Even recreation is essential. It should not be the result of procrastination, but a bona fide item on your schedule. “Multi-tasking” produces crap, not results. When you are working, whether your job is writing, painting, building, or cooking, don’t do anything else. Don’t work through lunch, ignore incoming emails and phone calls, don’t read pointless blogs, and don’t look outside. When you’re eating lunch, don’t do any of these other things, and the same for talking on the phone or taking a break. If you give your undivided attention to each item on your schedule, you will see massive performance gains.

Cutting off relationships with people who drag down your productivity is a positive step. Block that friend or coworker who forwards you 50 emails a day. Clear out your friends list on Facebook and Twitter: only keep people you know in real life and have seen recently. Banish energy vampires from your life. Surround yourself with positive people or no one at all.

Above all, never lose faith in yourself. You can do great things, even if you only have months left to live.

True Love is Conditional

Anyone who practices unconditional love must apply it to everything. It is not possible to love one person or thing unconditionally and love others conditionally (or not at all), just as it is impossible to have an inclusive society that excludes some group of people. Therefore, anyone who loves unconditionally also loves murder, lies, adultery, rape, child molestation, genocide, witchcraft, idolatry, hypocrisy, death, darkness, and evil in general. Conversely, anyone who loves conditionally can choose to hate evil and exclude it from their life.

Anything unconditional is devoid of substance and meaning. Do students learn anything from a class if their teacher accepts any answers? If you are unconditionally guaranteed food, shelter, and luxuries, does hard work or personal growth have any reward? Parents who love their children unconditionally provide just that, and their children are always spoiled brats who have no reverence or humility.

To understand the lunacy of unconditional love, consider its alternative: unconditional hate. Would it make any sense to hate someone no matter how much love and kindness he or she demonstrated toward you? Does it make any more sense to love someone unconditionally who continually murders your family and friends?

Does God love liars, killers, homosexuals, and gluttons unconditionally? No—he condemns them to death or eternal hellfire (depending on your religion). Does the State love criminals unconditionally? No—it imprisons and executes thousands of them. Unconditional love is unbounded, undefined, limitless, and expects no reciprocation. Unconditional love is insanity, and, like an infinite number, no examples of it exist in life.

Why then is unconditional love such a staple of romance novels and philosophical discussions? Doubtlessly, it stems from Romanticism, a period from 1789 to 1850 which emphasized feeling over truth and intuition over reason. A bunch of morons wrote a slew of poems about unconditional, unobtainable love for married or deceased women, and now children and college students of all ages have to waste precious time analyzing and praising the morons and their moronic poems.

People who practice unconditional love, in reality, hate themselves and the human species. They are child murderers, devil-worshipers, back-stabbers, and animal rights activists. True love is conditional.

Manifesting Money

Most people assume manifesting money requires hard work and providing value, but since money is just worthless paper, the quickest way is to print it.

So you should immediately become CEO of Goldman Sachs and start printing credit default swaps. Sell them to the Federal Reserve at face value, then buy gold in sacks and flee to Mexico.

Carbon Taxes

Proposed in the United Nations and the U.S. Congress is a tax on all carbon dioxide emissions. Whenever we light our wood-burning stove to heat our house, carbon atoms in the wood are being oxidized to release heat and carbon dioxide. Whenever we breathe in and out, we convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. A carbon tax is no more than a slave tax—a yoke around the necks of industry which will kill a billion people in the third world. Gasoline and power bills will easily go up 10%, and the cumulative effects will be even worse at the supermarket and the office stores.

The Carbon Tax Center postulates that “a permanent and increasing U.S. carbon tax is essential.” The theory is that burning carbon causes the Earth to become warmer, and that any influence we have on the Earth’s environment must be negative. Therefore, the ultimate solution is human extinction. We all know the Earth would be completely perfect without our presence. Short of that mass suicide, modern feudalism to our elitist overlords for our carbon sins will do (carbon is one of the four major organic molecules along with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen). The mindset is we are a cancer upon the planet, and every time a baby is born mother Earth weeps. Environmentalism is an excuse to take away our sovereignty, our property, and our wombs as gifts to the state, in the name of saving the Earth. This is why popular media promotes euthanasia, abortion rights, and one-child per family policies. Human life is cheap because we don’t belong here anyway. We evolved from monkeys as an evolutionary mistake, because monkeys were never supposed to be this smart.

The science anthropogenic climate change rests on is shaky. Emails leaked from the Climactic Research Unit in the University of East Anglia reveal that the Earth’s temperature has been declining since 2000. Scientists there have to come up with tricks to “hide the decline” in temperature—also known as fudging the numbers or cheating, to support the global warming agenda. Then the U.N. takes the C.R.U.’s reports and cites them as the excuse to enslave humanity. During the Medieval Warming Period, It was far warmer than it is now. The sun goes through warming and cooling cycles and right now we are in a cooling cycle. There is nothing you can do about that. More carbon dioxide does not cause global warming; global warming causes elevated carbon dioxide levels. Besides, the warming of the planet by 1 or 2 degrees F would be better for farmers. The Earth is too cold. Sea levels may rise one or two inches. Not 50 feet. The Great Lakes are not preparing to drain into the Gulf of Mexico, nor will San Francisco be 50 feet underwater by the 50th presidential election.

Our carbon output amounts to about 0.28% of the planet’s. Volcanos go off all the time. Florida is supposed to be on fire half the year. Polar bears are not dying and penguins are swimming better than ever. If you want to talk about damaging the environment, talk about the 200,000 troops we have bombing Afghanistan, killing citizens for no reason other than bloodlust. We fight wars with no enemies against people who have no weapons besides the weapons we give them, and then at home we talk of instituting crippling taxes and killing off the elderly. The only terrorists in this country are the elitsts on Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and several others, who continue to ram fascism down our throats.

The Constitution is dying and our freedoms are disappearing. The police dress in black and engage us as enemy combatants. As the artificial dollar bubble bursts, property taxes, mandatory car insurance, vehicle registrations, garbage pick up, sewage and water services, and power and phone services skyrocket. The people are being trodden over. Motorcycle cops are mere tax collectors, and we never question them, lest we be tased or clubbed.

We are headed for national socialism. With carbon taxes, even more of our money will go to the state and we will have to count on the state to take care of all our problems. It won’t happen. Healthcare is going to get even worse. You better pray you don’t get sick. They want to kill us with fluoride in the water, mercury in the vaccines, and barium in the chemical trails they continually spray on us (with no remorse for mother Earth). Some 2000 nuclear weapons test detonations in the past 70 years have done far worse for the environment than smokestacks or gas-guzzling SUVs.

Wake up and watch the Alex Jones channel. Start eating apricot kernels to avoid cancer. The green movement is death-worship, and we must thwart the death-worshipers before they kill us all. Population control starts with you.

Carbon taxes are the secular version of the Catholic indulgences of the 1400s. Carbon taxes will be used to set up a global government with Pope Benedict’s blessing, and there will be no escape. Buy your shotguns now.

Stop Abortion, Eugenics

I know they don’t teach you real history in history class. I know you haven’t read anything about the past 200 years of mankind and you have no historical knowledge. You don’t even know your own country. I don’t either, but if there’s something I want to know I don’t assume the status quo is correct. I look it up.

Eugenics was big in the 1920s in the U.S.A., and most states had laws allowing the government to sterilize people unfit to be parents. This isn’t just the insane—it’s people who have parents and family who are alcoholics and drug-users. Men and women who were mentally stable and led admirable lives were forcibly sterilized—60,000 of them. They could never have children or lead a fulfilling life (a fulfilling life involves raising a family). Not only that—the sterilization procedures were dangerous and frequently caused infections or death.

Do you want forced sterilization to come back? When you support abortion, you’re leading to it. The government is taking more and more power. Obama’s healthcare bills have “end of life” procedures to kill off sick old people. We don’t have the “resources” to take care of them. If the government would stop pushing us around and ruining us financially, we’d have plenty of resources.

Elitists like David Rockefeller and Bill Gates support abortion because it kills more of us. They support eugenics, “euthanasia” the sick and the old, forced sterilization, and forced abortion because they want the Earth’s population to be 500 million. Of course, they, their families, and their friends shouldn’t be subjugated. Just everyone else.

As a man I have no right to comment on rape? As an adult, how do you have the right to comment on teenagers? How do you have the right to say anything? The truth is, we all have the right to comment on whatever we want. There is no “right” to abortion, no more than there is a right to stab your neighbors eyes out.

Read this: http://current.com/1sblm4c

This post is my reply to a commentator on my abortion article, but I won’t repost his comment because it’s crap.

Negative Feedback, Speaking Your Mind

You are always going to get negative feedback. As you get more and more positive feedback, you get more and more negative feedback.

For example: this month I reduced my freelance photography rate from $50 per event to $20 per hour, with a minimum of $20 plus a $10 travel fee. Editing and a CD are free, but I provide no prints. I’ve done almost no freelance photography and I don’t even care about it, but I offer it because people ask about it all the time. The people who say I’m too expensive are actually MORE vocal now. Out of the ten who have asked this month, two have said I charge way too much. I have good equipment, 5 years experience, and a gallery of portraits, so I’m charging very little, but some people still complain. If I charged $5 there would be people saying “it will only take a few minutes!” There will ALWAYS be negative feedback.

Sometimes negative feedback is valid. More often negative feedback is bogus and positive feedback is legitimate. If you are evil this will be flipped: positive feedback (“good job gassing those Jews!”) is bogus and negative feedback (“murderer!”) is legitimate. You should ignore bogus feedback and cut off the source. In your email inbox, bogus feedback makes you want to click “Delete.” Constructive criticism makes you want to click “Archive” because everyone ignores constructive criticism. Accurate negative feedback makes you want to click “Archive” quickly because you are uneasy. If you keep mulling over a comment, it has truth.

A couple years ago I believed you should always speak your mind. Now I know you have to be cautious if you want to be part of normal institutions, i.e. public school, the university, or a bureaucratic place of employment.

For example: here are my observations about the word “nigger”:

* For a long time it was used derisively against blacks and mulattos. Even President Harding was called a nigger.

* Now it is often used by blacks when talking to their black buddies in “the ‘hood.”

* Black rappers say nigger in their song lyrics all the time and their CDs are sold at Wal-Mart.

* If a white man calls a black man a nigger, there are now Draconian penalties—a tenured professor could be fired.

* Calling a white man a honkey, a cracker, or white trash is not very bad.

* If a black man calls anyone a nigger there will likely be no penalty.

* This is racist. Two wrongs never make a right—you cannot mitigate historical oppression by flipping it. When the oppressed become the oppressors they are still unjustified.

* “Nigger” should be universally offensive, but when a white man is called a nigger he brushes it off.

* Professors are afraid of their white students saying the word, even when discussing historical racism. Instead we have to say “the N-word.”

These can be objectively proven. Therefore, they are not beliefs. They are observations. However I would not dare make these statements at my job or school because there could be painful sanctions, even in history class! Most professors would not find them offensive, but white professors would strike me down, lest they themselves be labeled “racist.” It’s a sad system.

I love this website because I can say whatever I want. I own the domain name, I own the DNS name servers, and I control the server and software. I’m renting the server, but my web host has a traditional policy of non-interference. When you post on someone else’s site or you speak on someone else’s property, you are subject to their rules. You can be moderated. I am accountable only to the U.S. government, my local government, and defamation lawsuits, so I don’t have to watch what I say.

Granted, my main source of income is Google AdSense and they could cut me off, but there are always other income streams. I have a lot of freedom.

If you can’t speak your mind at your job, your school, or your social clubs, you can always opt out. Quit, leave, find your own space. How much personal autonomy are you willing to sacrifice? We all must sacrifice some amount of freedom for convenience or safety. For example, if you enjoy eating or injecting cocaine, you have no legal options in the United States. Your two legitimate options are: a.) don’t use cocaine, b.) move to Colombia and grow some Coca leaves. Moving to Colombia is very inconvenient, so most people choose option a.

Speaking your mind always has a price. Ask yourself: is this price worthwhile? Are you willing to pay it? You might get fired. Can you pay your mortgage? There are many reasons to speak your mind, but there are also many reasons to NOT speak your mind. There are shades of gray. Weigh your options. The decision is yours alone.

Are you a specialist or a dilettante?

In life you can choose to grow your skills horizontally or vertically. Vertical growth involves specializing in a field while ignoring others. Horizontal growth involves gaining cursory experience in a wide range of fields while remaining an amateur in them all.

We live in a society of hyper-specialization. Some astronomers study planets, others study gas giants. My college offers hundreds of majors for very specific subjects, and it gets even more specialized at the baccalaureate level. Man’s knowledge is so vast that it is a necessity to choose a narrow direction. Conversely, there are connections you will miss if you overlook history, classical literature, music, theoretical science, religion, or other fields. Don’t dabble in a dozen different trades, but if you’ve been a cooper, branch out—start a blog about barrel making.

I had a great Spanish tutor in high school (I was home-schooled by my father), but I never put forth effort and I’ve forgotten my Spanish books and everything he taught me. Because my mother is Chinese, friends suggest I learn Chinese. Employers want fluent Spanish-speakers because we have a lot of Mexicans in Florida. I’ve never learned a second language. I know English and I know it well. You could say I’m an English specialist, because I’ve written hundreds of posts on this blog, I always spell words right, and most of the time I use proper grammar. My language growth has definitely been vertical.

Students taking foreign language courses in high school often lack English skills. They are fluent in chat speak, not real words. They use “literally” in place of “figuratively,” for example: “I literally died laughing.” Apostrophes are to be used in contractions (“it isn’t so”), for possession (“Richard’s camera”), and to clarify (“12 students got A’s on the test”), yet half of America’s teenagers are dumbfounded. They resort to inserting apostrophes into their papers willy-nilly. These students should not be taking another language. If you want to learn a whole bunch of languages, it’s best to become an expert in your country’s language first. Start out with a solid base of vertical growth before expanding horizontally.

Music is another field where specialization should precede dabbling. When you become very good at the piano, it is much easier to pick up the guitar, the harpsichord, or even random string instruments. You understand sheet music, keys, chords, scales, rhythm, and tone. These skills carry over to other instruments. However, if you try learning six instruments at once as a newbie, you will fail, unless you want to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on them all.

On this blog I am a dilettante. While I am focusing on releasing new art photos, I’ve spent many hours in fields I have little experience with. I’ve written novelettes about technology, personal development, photography advice, and what I call “photography ramblings.” Even these fields are vague: for technology I’ve written about memory card readers, programming languages, computer monitors, flash drives, printers, and other items. Many of my posts cover a whole bunch of disconnected topics in a haphazard way. Not many people read them. Last month, a commenter said I “try to make too many points and [I] go into too many directions which are hard to follow.”

I pay a high price for my dabbling. While I have the advantage of having my activities under one roof (this site) rather than multiple sites, I’d be better off focusing on a narrow range of specific topics. I talked with Melody Anglin, who was hoping to find technical articles on my site because my Twitter tweets are often about computer problems or cameras. Instead she found articles like Transcending Limiting Beliefs, philosophical articles written from a position of little experience which she described as “not useful.” Unfortunately she’s right.

Old habits die hard. Even in this essay I’m all over the place. Focus! Specialize! Creativity is nothing without discipline.

Four years ago I stopped playing the piano, instead spending hours each day taking photos of mundane objects. My parents and grandparents were disappointed because they’d invested so much in my music. My Grandma used to talk of me going to Stetson University to be a concert pianist—abandoning music for photography made no sense. At 14 I gave up something I was fairly good at for something I had no talent for but which gave immediate rewards. Like many other teenagers I found piano boring and unrewarding while I could instantly share photos on deviantART and have them seen by dozens of people.

My shift worked out well. I’m playing the piano again and I’ve become good at photography. However my decision last year to write about personal development has not been so good. I’ve written posts that have value, I’ve defined myself, and I’ve gained writing experience, but I could be making good money from this site if I applied myself to marketing and technical writing instead of airy-fairy posts about beliefs and goals.

There’s a quote by Steve Jobs that I like: “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” You may have to dabble in a half-dozen careers before finding your calling. Many times you will pick a path and hit a brick wall, and you will do this again and again. The true danger is not lifelong amateurism—the true danger is never picking a path. Never taking that first step. If you want to be a composer, you have to compose music. If you want to be a writer, you must start publishing your writing, in a blog, the newspaper, a book—whatever. Just set goals and get something done. Most of us make inefficient use of our time. If you are committed you can always make progress.

But if you are a habitual dabbler, just call yourself a Renaissance man and be done with it. :grin:

Brian Clark of Copyblogger Lashes Out at Me

Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger, lashed out at me today.

Ali Hale wrote a guest post called Are Vampire Words Sucking the Life Out of Your Writing? on the popular blog, where she says you should always use concrete terms like “always” and “never.” You should competely remove “vampire words” like “quite,” “fairly,” “sometimes,” and “often” from your writing.

Of course this is bogus in many situations, especially writing advertising and press releases which is Copyblogger’s bread and butter. I commented that this doesn’t apply on scholarly essays: anything to do with academia, school essays, formal stuff. Brian said Copyblogger doesn’t care about scholarly essays. I said it applies to advertising also. Brian completely ignored this, latching on to the scholarly essays seed. He told me I could take my “esteemed input” elsewhere, which is meant to be sarcastic and patronizing.

I replied. He toned down his comment and didn’t approve mine. I’m sure he feels he is the “winner” now. Copyblogger is a great blog which I read often. It’s in the top 100 on Technorati and it is 100 times more famous than mine. I never expected such cowardice from its founder.

Here are the ORIGINAL comments.

Thripp 2009-09-01T16:56Z:

This is fine for informal blogging but it won’t work for scholarly research. You can’t make unverified claims there without qualifying them. Unless you’re 100% sure you must use “may,” “almost,” “generally,” etc.

The same holds true for high school and college essays.

Most of us aren’t writing those, but you have to use a separate mode for blogging than you do for formal writing.

Clark 2009-09-01T17:15Z:

Richard, no such qualification for scholarly writing is necessary, because that’s not what this blog is about. ;)

Thripp 2009-09-01T17:33Z:

@Brian Clark: No, it says “Writing” not “Blogging” in the title. Many of us have to write essays for college still, or for our jobs, where making claims that are false will not fly. A large portion of copywriting is for sales or advertising. There are laws about truth in advertising—you can’t make statements that are clearly false. This post is bad advice for a lot of writers.

“7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work” and “Why You Can’t Make Money Blogging” are completely falsifiable. I could easily find a list post that has received no traffic or a blog that makes thousands of dollars per month. It would be completely unacceptable to market a cell phone with the headline “The Cell Phone that Always Works.” If you want to talk about writing copy, you have to talk about advertising and press releases.

This post requires a codicil stating that it only applies to blogging and informal writing.

Clark 2009-09-01T21:21Z:

Richard, with all due respect, what part of “Copyblogger” or “Copywriting tips for online marketing success” indicates we tackle so-called “scholarly writing?” Do you honestly mean to tell me you don’t look at the context of the publication you’re reading for semantic cues?

And please don’t show up here and tell me “what I have to do.” I’ve been doing just fine without your esteemed input.

Thripp 2009-09-01T21:35Z:

@Brian Clark: If you would have read my comment instead of just making assumptions, you would’ve seen that most of it was about press releases and advertising (”writing copy”). Obviously, a major part of this blog is about writing advertising, and advertising cannot make false claims. You read the my first sentence and my last sentence. Please read the whole comment before responding.

You don’t want me to tell you what to do? Did you want me to prefix it with “please” or “I think”? You encourage boldness in most of your articles. Why do you expect your commentators to be timid sycophants?

AFTER I released the last one, he removed the last sentence from his last comment and he did not approve mine. He’s in damage control mode. He realizes what he said, though not egregious, will hurt his reputation, so he wants to cover it up.

Unfortunately for him, I save everything.

If my comments didn’t have merit he wouldn’t have replied to them. And if they didn’t have merit he CERTAINLY wouldn’t have gone all emotional on me. You can tell with his last comment, he read about five words of my comment before letting off some steam. Most of my comment was about press releases and advertising, but he skipped right over that.

I’ve made comments that were a lot worse than his, and I regret them, but nobody knows Richard X. Thripp. Brian Clark is world famous. The more fame you have, the more gracious you should be.

A piece of advice to Brian: get one of your staffers to read your comments before you post them!

Practicality

Your success is tied directly to your merit. If your business is profitable with many customers, you’ve done good work. If your business hasn’t gotten off the ground and you’ve been working hard for a year, you’ve done bad work. If you are rich, you deserve wealth because you’ve provided services of value to your community. If you are poor, you got into your situation by providing no value, or never charging for it. If you provided value for free, it wasn’t useful. If it was, you would have received unsolicited donations.

If you are famous, you are an attractive, interesting person. If you are unknown, you are neither. If you’re a good author, you can get a publisher to pick up your book. If you are a bad author, you cannot. If you are good at playing the piano, you should be able to go into any Target or Wal-Mart and attract a crowd by bashing the keys. If you do not attract a crowd, you are a bad piano player. Or you aren’t bashing hard enough. :grin:

These paragraphs may seem laughable, but they are practical. They are true 90% of the time, but half the people who read them will not like them. Most of us have created a different model of reality—one based on chance, privilege, and divine right. All of these advantages belong to our competitors, and all of these reality models are used to explain our lack of success. They have no other purpose other than to vindicate us from the vagaries of reality!

Is this practical? Hell no!

90% of the time, success is tied directly to merit. 10% of the time, there are hidden or special factors to consider. The exceptions usually involve rich or famous people promoting unworthy people or products. However, if they do this too often, they become untrustworthy. They will fall from grace themselves. While most people might say that success is tied to merit only half the time, in truth the two are almost always correlated. People with government contracts still have to put out good products.

When I started writing about personal development over a year ago, I wanted to help people change their lives for the better while becoming a better person myself. I wanted to make an impact on the world. I wanted to give new perspectives on time and money, limiting vs. empowering beliefs, working for yourself vs. working for others, negativity, intrinsic value, happiness, and other topics. I wrote articles about many things—they’re each several pages long and still seem fairly good to me.

I haven’t made an impact. Most of my articles are skimmed by few people and read by fewer. I make less impact with 60 posts than a popular blogger makes with one. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve received a piece of critical feedback. No one ever says anything about whatever I write, even when I give out print copies, which I make a habit of. If I get a meaningful comment, it is the rule, not the exception. There is a grandiosity gap. The goals I set do not line up with the practicality of reality. Pretending that I’m changing the world is laughable. I haven’t even started. I haven’t made a quantum leap. I’ve worked hard, but I’m still on the launchpad.

How many goals have you set yet never reached? How many of them have stayed on the launchpad? How many projects do you work on each day that are still going nowhere? Are you being practical?

If something doesn’t work, ditch it. Don’t be trapped by dogma.

The posts I’ve written aren’t working. They appeal to the mind but they do not appeal to the heart. They don’t touch anyone. I may be writing in the wrong field—I have no life experience and am hardly empathetic. However, I am sticking with this field because I want more of both (life experience and empathy). Examining my circumstances practically, I see that I need to write shorter articles tackling lower level, practical concepts, rather than grazing high level, theoretical concepts which I hardly understand myself. I must adapt or die.

In the past two months, I’ve done a lot of programming on Tweet This, a WordPress plugin that integrates your blog with Twitter. Before I started, I considered working on Bookley, an open source library management system I designed over the spring. I never wrote code to let you search the catalog. It has no support for different library branches. You can’t set closed days and have due dates automatically forward. There are no alert emails for hold requests. It could use a lot of work.

A couple years ago, I would’ve considered Bookley my main project and Tweet This my side project. I’d add a few features to Tweet This while putting the bulk of my effort into a white elephant. Today, I chose Tweet This. It is purely a matter of practicality. No one uses Bookley and it is likely that no one ever will. Hundreds of people use Tweet This every day. If well-designed, Bookley is the type of software that would win an award. Tweet This will get no academic recognition, but it will always be used widely. It is the practical choice, and that’s where my effort belongs.

In 1942, the comedy team Abbott & Costello were at their peak, and their movies brought in $10 million at the theaters, even as America was going into a war. Movies like Hold That Ghost, Pardon My Sarong, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein would bring in more money than first-rate productions, even though Abbott & Costello were B-actors. A practical studio would have put all their money behind the team. The props and sets would be stunning and realistic instead of laughable. The movies would be in technicolor rather than black and white. Instead, Universal Pictures would paint the studio every time an Abbott & Costello picture was released. They would take the profits from the team’s movies and use them to fund sacred cows like Hamlet and Phantom of the Opera. Movies designed to win awards rather than sell tickets. Movies that interested no one received lavish funding and the best color film stock.

The same thing happened to The Three Stooges. Their short films are more popular than the features of their time, yet they were given second-class treatment for most of their careers. Is this practical? Of course not. More money would not have made them any funnier—in fact, it may have detracted from their appeal. However, we cannot consider this because it was not something the studios considered. A&C and the Stooges were simply considered second-rate actors. They did receive the proper recognition for their work, but from the public, not the studio executives. If the executives were any good, they would’ve let the Stooges lead the show rather than putting them on the back burner.

The practical choice is always present and often obvious. We only miss it when we are trapped by dogma. We overlook it when our model of reality is inaccurate. We choose hard solutions when practical solutions are readily available. We try to shock and awe when it would be better to get the job done quietly.

The practical choice is often the most obvious and readily available solution. You don’t have to look hard for it. Don’t make life too complicated.

The practical choice can change based on your situation. When you’re looking for a jar of peanut butter at the grocery store, the practical choice may be the store brand if you are poor, or a brand name if you are rich. Consider your needs and priorities. But don’t spend fifteen minutes selecting a jar of peanut butter. Be practical.

Egregious Failures

2009-12-20 Update: Don’t be a jerk toward others and take this article with a grain of salt as it has a lot of negativity in it.

It sucks when you fail hard. That sentence will get a lot of search traffic, right?

I had you all set up for an awesome article before I typed that opening. Seeing the unusual title, you expected me to share one of my massive failures in the first paragraph. Instead, you got a joke that is annoying rather than funny. The sad part is it probably will get search traffic.

50% of you are hovering over the red “X” now. This opening is an egregious failure… unless you’re writing a post about egregious failures.

Six of my readers don’t know what “egregious” means. It means awful. Terrible. Massively wrong. Glaringly horrible. “Conspicuously bad or offensive,” as the dictionaries are fond of.

In life, you will become a master failer. Sooner or later, no matter how cautious you are, it will happen. The only way to avoid it is to never risk anything. You might be able to pull this off by holing up in a trailer, writing a blog about personal development while trying to make money with ads, ordering everything you need online, and barely covering your utilities. But then, your whole life is an egregious failure. You have a doctorate in failure and a cabinet full of awards.

Yes I am describing myself. It’s funny in a depressing sort of way, and my mission in my nineteenth year is to change it. If you’re failing now, there is still hope for the future. As a human being you are allowed to fail. You’re allowed to write your budget and totally forget groceries. It is okay if you give a whole speech in second person. You can release a WordPress plugin and crash hundreds of blogs for days on end (I’ve done this sadly). Failure is not only okay—it is a necessity. The more egregious, the better.

If you don’t believe you are allowed to fail, I can’t do anything to change you. The best I can do is this: I offer you my personal permission to fail. You may now disconnect success from your ego. Massive failure does not have to dent your self esteem. You have to do that. When you fail miserably, you have not failed as a person. Your actions, your ideas, your words, and your implementations have failed. Not you. You are not your actions, because you remain constant while your actions change. You change as a person but you do not morph into your neighbor. You are always unique.

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

Churchill was an evil man, but he has some damn good quotes, and that’s one of them.

There is huge risk in tying your ego to success. After a string of egregious failures, you will feel like crap. Combined with your battered ego, these feelings will allow your superego to indulge in sadistic torture¹. You will begin to unconsciously sabotage your new projects and you will continue to fail. You will lose all enthusiasm. At the extreme end, you might ruin your life, becoming an alcoholic to numb the pain. You may also convince your children that alcohol is an admirable escape hatch. I learned this two days ago, while taking my Traffic Laws and Substance Abuse Education course on the way to my Florida driver’s license.

What’s worse than committing an egregious act? Never forgiving yourself!

A year ago, I created a URL shortening service called Th8.us and a WordPress plugin called Tweet This, which puts “Tweet This Post” links on your blog with URLs shortened by Th8.us. In 2009 July I was going to spend the entire month not dealing with email or my websites. I checked my emails anyway on the 12th, and found that my URL shortening service had been completely shut down because of too much server load.

It turns out I had some very bad MySQL queries on the home page and preview pages. They showed the latest shortened URLs, the most clicked URLs, and the other short URLs for a given domain. I always knew the code was bad, but I let it slide because the URL shortening service itself gets almost no traffic. It’s the API (application programming interface) that does, through the Tweet This plugin. Still, those few visitors completely crashed me. The functions worked fine with one million short URLs, but two million was too many. Lesson: It’s really bad to do a wildcard SELECT with a wildcard LIKE query on a MySQL table with two million rows. But, I digress. I’m a bad programmer.

Due to my untimely response, my host was adamant that they would NOT continue to support me unless I started paying them $160 per month instead of $90 per month. Out of the question. After two days of begging, pleading, and promising to repent, I was back online. Rather than fixing the poorly coded features, I completely removed them. I also removed hit counters to be safe, because WiredTree said it would be over if this ever happened again. Since then, Th8.us has been a spartan URL service, and the integration with Tweet This has been flawless.

Where was the egregious failure? During the three days of downtime, I completely crashed the nearly 1000 blogs that used my plugin with my URL shortening service. I had contingency code in the plugin to switch URL shorteners if this happened, but it was also badly coded and completely failed. Because Th8.us stalled, all the blogs accessing its API without a backup plan (e.g. using my plugin) stalled. There are about 15 accurately negative blog posts about it. I mentioned it on Twitter at the time but chose not to blog about it.

One of the options I had at the time was to completely abandon both services, make profuse apologies, and exit with a black reputation. Instead I continued with a black reputation.

Some people switched short URL services to fix the problem. Others removed the plugin and came back recently. Most removed the plugin and vowed never to use it again. Ruining peoples blogs is a BIG DEAL.

How did I estimate that this affected 1000 blogs? Tweet This 1.3.X would phone home data to my server. If you used Tweet This between 2009 February and early July, I have your email, your blog URL and title, your description and language, your WordPress and Tweet This versions, your blog’s post count, and your exact Tweet This settings. I caught flak for this, rightly so. I stopped collecting this data at the same time I fixed Th8.us. Recording this data helped crash my server. Every time you updated your settings, activated the plugin, or deactivated the plugin, I’d save a copy of all your information. I’ve removed the database from my MySQL server and the 105MB MySQL dump containing thousands of blogs is stored in an encrypted file on my computer. I never have and never will use it for anything bad. I thought about using the list of emails to notify people of new Tweet This versions, but never did.

I acted like Google. I collected as much personal data as possible, regardless of its usefulness, and stored it indefinitely. Acting like Google never works… unless you are Google.

I’m surprised people weren’t outraged, or at least, not many publicized it. If a plugin did this to me I’d be angry and would defame the author (I need to become kinder). Many of the blog posts acted like this was a common occurrence with plugins. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. WordPress has never been enterprise or mission-critical software, what with the constant bugs and security flaws. When you use WordPress or a WordPress plugin, you expect problems and you learn to deal with it.

So, I have two big black marks on both the reputation of my programs and my person, because my name is directly tied to this software. The Internet is forever. People will always be able to find this information. If I apply for a job as a computer programmer at a software company, the personnel department might Google me and find out about these egregious failures. I may never be able to get a job as a programmer!

Does this bother me? Yes it does. I don’t want a marred reputation and I don’t want to wreck peoples livelihoods. I’m sure I cost my users a few hundred dollars in ad revenue, since many of them rely on Google AdSense as I do. I can’t dwell on it though, because there is no turning back.

Two weeks ago another URL service, tr.im, which receives a thousand times more visitors than I do, announced they would close at the end of 2009. They could not guarantee that their URLs would keep working due to their bills and lack of income, though they made no attempt at collecting donations from their tens of thousands of users. Two days later, Eric Woodward, tr.im co-founder, flip-flopped, citing overwhelming public response. He made no apology, only stating “perhaps we should have taken a different course.”

Even though I don’t use tr.im and expressed callous disregard for my service’s users recently, I was very angry at Woodward’s post because I found it patronizing. Really it was self-directed anger, because I was seeing someone else do the same sort of thing I did. These are the statements I dislike the most: “We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the popular response, and the countless public and private appeals I have received to keep tr.im alive,” and “This was not a public-relations stunt. At all.” The first is condescending. I hate it when people hide behind “we” when they mean “I,” and Woodward slips up here by saying “we have” and then “I have.” Both times you know he meant “I have.” The second statement is simply patronizing, and I still believe it to be patronizing.

What action did I take? I posted a comment calling the tr.im developers “rotten people” who get a “sadistic thrill” out of playing their users for fools. It was the single harshest comment in the list of 200. When I do something evil, I take it really far. It is an unfortunate character flaw and it diminishes my credibility in the personal development field. I’m sorry for that comment.

Remember that egregious failures are only good if they teach you. For example, my hard learned lesson from the Tweet This incident is that you must create stable systems if people are counting on you. I don’t care if my home network is stable, because I am the only person who uses it. However, if the failure of your software really hurts people, you must ensure your software does not fail, or implement fail-safes. If I kept making the same mistake again and again, the value of the failure will be null.

Microsoft, did you hear that?

Microsoft Windows is an egregious failure. It’s done a few revolutionary things, but that happens less and less often. It’s buggy, inconsistent, has many incompatibilities, and crashes way too often. Every new version has more bugs than the previous. The latest version only becomes usable after a few years and a few service packs. Bill Gates never learns. And now it doesn’t matter because he’s hardly involved in the behemoth.

I released Tweet This 1.6 yesterday. It’s been downloaded 1000 times already. Most people don’t care what happened six weeks ago—they only care if it works now, which it does. Just as I continue to use Windows despite its big problems, bloggers continue to use Tweet This despite my egregious failure.

Not long ago I would rarely challenge people even if I believed them to be wrong. Now I’m working on kindness because I do it all the time, even if they mean no disrespect. I’ve become overly mean. Eventually I will reach a middle ground where I don’t get stepped on and I don’t step on people. You can’t do this if you stay a nice guy all the time, because you will always harbor hidden resentment for what you could accomplish if you became a jerk. If you don’t ever try being an ass, your personal growth will hit a glass ceiling which you will never be able to break through. If you are smart, you’ll try being a jackass for a while. If you’re average you won’t ever try it, or you will stay a jerk permanently.

2009-12-20 Update: Don’t do what I suggest below because it’s just mean and wrong. :frown:

I recommend running a one week trial in jerkiness. Adopt aggressive postures and attitudes, within reason. Try the things in my article, Becoming Evil. Just the stuff that’s fairly harmless. See what results you get. You will find that certain areas of your life improve, while others decline. If you don’t tell them about your trial ahead of time, you will alienate friends and family. People stop opening doors for you when you stop opening doors for them. You will become a lone wolf. You will stop yielding at the grocery store checkout and while driving, which will save you time. If the cashier refuses your Juicy Juice coupon, you will not give in. You will assert its validity and get the manager involved. If you are a man, women will become attracted to you for obscure and complicated reasons. If you are a woman, you will repel everyone except submissive lesbians.

Your experiments as a jerk will fail, possibly egregiously. Believe it or not, you will still have to run multiple trials in jerkhood, or if that is your default state, multiple trails in niceness. Only through practice will you implement the good qualities of being a bad boy and the good qualities of being a nice guy while discarding the rest. Any article on becoming attractive to women will tell you this.

To be a balanced person, you must try both sides. Not the extremes of both sides; just the moderates. Go extreme if you want, but remember the high costs in both directions. Being extremely evil obviously has high costs, but being extremely good has hidden costs. You give too much and get burned out. You don’t respect yourself enough. The truly wise don’t go all the way. Gandhi had respect for his time, and Hitler cared for his henchmen. In Star Wars, the emperor kills his henchmen left and right. Even for evil people, this does not work. There is always honor among thieves. If you are evil, your henchmen will only serve you as long as they know you will be good to them. Fear can only take you so far. Even the devil is nice to people.

Everything in life requires practice. This bugs me sometimes, but you can’t do anything about it.

Remember that you can always apologize for your mistakes. Announcing that tr.im would close and then reversing the announcement was a failure on the part of the tr.im developers. However, they apologized and are launching a new project to make tr.im community owned, which is a noble effort. Today, I finally made a comment in apology.

I’ll be giving out a bunch of print copies of this article, so I’ve decided to include my slanderous comment and my apologetic comment so you don’t have to look it up on your own. The bad comment:

What is this bullshit? What kind of fools do you take us for, anyway? How dare you pull this shit?

First, you make a whiny announcement about how there’s no point continuing tr.im with no way to make money and no support from Twitter. Then, you announce that you’ll be breaking millions of links at the end of the year by turning off the tr.im servers. Finally, you tell us it was all a joke.

That’s what this is, anyway. A joke. An insult to your users. Do you get some sort of sadist thrill out of pulling these stunts? You obviously had no intention of ending tr.im. This was just a publicity stunt. A very bad one at that, because it alienates your users. How can anyone take you seriously again?

Until recently, Twitter favored TinyURL. Why weren’t you squawking then? Twitter shows disfavor to you now no more than they did then. GET OVER IT. If you can’t make tr.im popular without sponsorship from Twitter, then you don’t deserve to succeed. Do you hear Steve Jobs constantly complaining about Microsoft?

You were “overwhelmed” by the response? 300 comments and a handful of emails overwhelmed you? You have a popular service. When you announce that you will be shutting it down and breaking all your links, how can you not expect an overwhelming response?

A service like tr.im should not cost more than $1000 a month to host. If you need money, don’t pull this shit. Ask for donations. You would have gotten them. But now, you’ll get nothing, because you’ve proven what rotten people you are.

And the apology:

This is good news. Sorry I was so nasty about your reversal before. Everyone makes mistakes, as I did.

I wrote a blog post called Egregious Failures, where I included the scathing comment I gave you, and cited it as an egregious failure on my part. If you read it, you’ll realize I’m a hypocrite, because my URL shortening service Th8.us had a three day outage one month before. My service receives 1/1000 of the visitors that tr.im gets, but on principle my comment was wrong. Unlike my service, your service did not go offline at all. You just made an announcement which made people angry. TinyURL and Twitter have had major outages in the past few months. Your mistake was insignificant in comparison. If I did not read your blog or check your home page when you had the announcement up, I would not even know about it now.

Do you know what Twitter should do? Ditch all URL shorteners and just flag all URLs as 25 characters toward the 140, regardless of length. Problem solved.

Sorry and good luck,
Richard

Apologizing for a wrong doesn’t absolve you, but it helps, and you learn from your error. I will fail again in the future, even with Tweet This, but I am not afraid. *500 people uninstall Tweet This* :blindfold:

Note that my scathing comment, from a pragmatic point of view, is very effective. It stands out more than any other comment on that post, and it’s probably garnered me fifty hits. But it is rude, soulless, and incongruous with my image. It is definitely NOT what I want to project. That is why it troubles me.

Anyway, my gut tells me I will own tr.im as much as I own General Motors. “Community ownership” will be a failure. But the tr.im staff will gain a boatload of experience.

Egregious failures build wisdom. Sadly, failures detract from your reputation. Failures involving character flaws obliterate your reputation. Once it’s done, it’s done.

“Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, brah!…
Lala how the life goes on…”

– The Beatles

You are not supposed to end an article with a statement intended to be profound, followed by lyrics from a light-hearted song. But we aren’t following the rules today. So here comes something really dark.

Murdering someone does not get you a free pass into evilness. You are only evil if you do not feel remorse over it. If you feel any remorse, you are not evil. I believe there are agents of pure good and agents of pure evil in this world. Like in The Matrix trilogy, some people become hosts to these agents. Good agents NEVER become parasites, because it removes free will—an act which is inherently evil. Unlike in The Matrix, evil agents must be provoked or invited to possess you. Only very strong people can resist the full wrath of evil forces in the nether realm. Weak people cannot. Sometimes they remain agents of evil their whole lives, feeling no remorse because they’ve been transformed, just like when Captain Jean-Luc Picard became Locutus of Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Every once in a while a shred of their old self pops up, and in these moments they have the power to escape the grip of the evil agent, as Picard did.

Do not tempt fate! Do not tempt dark forces! Do not offer yourself as a host to an agent of evil! Do not use weegie boards or tarot cards! Do not try to communicate with the dead unless you have confirmed psychic abilities! Before attempting to communicate with the dead, make sure you have confronted evil forces numerous times and persevered! If you have great difficulty communicating with a dead relative, you’re doing it wrong! If anyone does communicate with you, it will be an evil agent trying to trick you! Do not think that being possessed by an evil agent will be a fun, interesting, or beneficial experience! Do not think you can “handle it”! If you think you can “handle it,” you most certainly cannot! You have no idea how powerful evil is! You will end up murdering numerous people if you become an agent of evil!

Sorry for all the exclamation points, but this stuff is really important, and we all know that when something is important you do lots of shouting. :grin:

Everything fades in time. Even being possessed by an agent of evil. It will fade when you die and cross into the afterlife, and you will only be punished there if you punish yourself. Still, it is the ultimate egregious failure. Everything else pales in comparison. Fortunately, evil forces do not unleash their wrath on you unless you challenge or invite them.

“Richard, you were doing really good up until all that metaphysical crap!”

*50 people unsubscribe from my blog* :blindfold:

Earlier I said that Churchill was evil. Churchill appears to be evil because he got England involved in World War II to make a name for himself. He did not do it for the benefit of his people. His cowardice is well documented. 65,000 English civilians died needlessly because of him, and numerous colonies were lost, yet he is now deified. England would be much more powerful now if not for him. He deserves no praise. I judge him to be evil because as far as I know, he expressed no remorse. His actions may not represent him, but you take that risk when judging someone. Your judgment is often wrong because you do not have complete information. The only person who can judge correctly is God. However judgment is convenient, powerful, and often necessary, even though we can’t get it right. We get as close as we can, and we use a sliding scale. A man must be proven guilty “beyond a shadow of a doubt” to be executed, however the accuracy requirements are appropriately lowered when the stakes are lower.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Before writing this, I had defined my beliefs on the meta-physical less completely, but the beliefs came to me intuitively while drafting this. They may not accurately represent the realities of the metaphysical world, but I will use them until I uncover better beliefs. I hate putting a codicil on this, but I have to.

This post is so OVER!

¹ As opposed to torture used to extract information.

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