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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.

Eighteen

Today is my 18th birthday. While I wrote a long and pompous article for my 17th birthday, I will be doing no such thing this year.

18 is a bigger milestone than 17, because I no longer have to do business in my father’s name. I can open my own bank account, eBay, PayPal, AdSense, and other accounts. I can be drafted by the army (I sure hope that doesn’t happen). The police can tase and clobber me with impunity. And I can claim virtual independence from my parents and family.

This year has been highly unproductive. I took off six months, basically doing nothing creative, eating junk food, playing video games, reading blogs rather than writing them, taking bad photos, idling, and not being in school. I lived at a lower frequency of awareness for most of this year. I would like to say that it was a learning experience, but it accomplished little. The only benefit is that I feel more wise and less driven now. I thought creativity was ingrained in my consciousness, but I found that it is an applied skill. I am perfectly capable of creating nothing and contributing nothing to the world.

While I wrote a lengthy article in October about becoming a vegetarian, and maintained that diet for ten weeks. I stopped last December when I started loosing my sense of taste and smell. It was a combination of eating bad foods, eating very little (1000 calories per day), and not sleeping properly. I’ve always been a night owl and was struggling to get up at 8 A.M. five days a week for my college courses at the end of last year, so I was only getting three hours of sleep or not being able to sleep at all for quite some time. Sleep deprivation has harsh effects on your body.

I was going to stop eating meat again today but I forgot and did anyway at lunch. So I should be able to claim vegetarianism from the day after my 18th birthday and will eat vegetables at dinner today.

As I’ve written before, I have no love for animals; my only reason to not eat meat is for the sake of my health. Our small intestines are too long and our stomach acidity is too low to digest animal flesh. That’s why meat that is not heavily cooked and processed makes you sick. While prepared meat in small quantities is healthful and a good source of protein, eating it three meals a day—or even one meal a day—is bad for you and cuts years off your life. It’s much easier to eat no meat than to eat a restricted amount, because you know exactly where you stand.

However, I won’t claim to be a vegetarian until the end of the year because I’ve proven my lack of commitment.

Rather than graduating from Daytona State College this year I will be graduating next year and only taking Calculus II and Music Appreciation this fall. In a way this is a blessing in disguise—I will have time to be involved in social projects, the school newspaper, Phi Theta Kappa, and other college events, whereas I had limited time with a 15-credit workload. I completed an online computer programming course over the summer (with an A, fortunately), and my fall classes start on August 31. I will likely start blogging again at Daytonastate.org.

Since my classes are in the morning, I have been adapting to getting up in the morning. The past three days, I’ve gone to bed at 9 P.M., 4 P.M. and 7 P.M., and got up at 4 A.M., 2:30 A.M., and 5 A.M., respectively. I’d like to get up at 5 A.M. every day. I’ve done this in the past for several weeks at a time, but I’d always get involved in a computer programming project and drift, until I’d be going to bed at 3 A.M. and getting up at noon. I can’t afford to do that anymore. I must be more rigid. I don’t care what time I go to sleep—as long as I’m up at the same time early every morning and am not tired, I’m happy.

During my period of creative negligence, I did complete one project: Bookley, the open-source integrated library system, which required two weeks of programming. It is 4000 lines of PHP code and it works quite well. Eventually I’ll implement it for the public library I want to open in a few years.

I’ve written a few articles in the past month, and I’ve been posting new photos again, though far fewer than during the glory days. I want to write at least ten articles a month from this point on. There are still a lot of personal development concepts I want to cover. I find that I become more collected and driven writing about personal development than reading the work of others. It would be nice to hit 250,000 words on this blog at the year’s end (189,000 now), although the quality of my writing is more important than the quantity.

After five months of inactivity, in the past month I’ve released five updates to my WordPress plugin, Tweet This. It adds social bookmarking links to your blog posts, with an emphasis on Twitter. The new versions have focused on bugfixes and stability, while adding small yet important features. The next version, which I will start soon and complete by the end of next month, will add automatic posting of your blog posts to Twitter with a host of filtering options. The plugin will soon be a complete Twitter solution.

My talents and accomplishments must now be filtered through an adult lens rather than the lens of a child. I will not claim youth to impress others with my writing, photographic, or musical abilities. If my skills were exceptional at 15, they are merely standard now, for I do not improve at a rate commensurate with my age. In the next year I will accelerate my rate of personal growth through real accomplishments.

I do not feel young, and my future is a blank. I have no idea where I’ll be in ten years. I’m not interested in working for any company, but I may have to. “Have to” is a limiting term however. When you say you “have to” do something, what you mean to say is that you have chosen to do so. My blog is less popular now than it was last year and I am only clearing $35 a month from advertisements, though admittedly Th8.us is expensive to host. I can’t live on $35 a month. I could only hope to not require a job if I was making $1000 a month, and I’m far from that. I remain unemployed for now.

2009-12-20 Update: Do not follow my advice in the next paragraph. Stick with your family and take care of your family. Independence is less important than you think and you should not try to put distance between yourself and your family or friends. I was a fool for what I wrote below.

I live alone in a trailer in my parents’ back yard, which I moved into at the start of this month. I have a computer, Internet, bathroom, shower, sink, water, electricity, microwave, toaster oven, hot plate, refrigerator, freezer, bed, air-conditioner, and plenty of closet space. I spend most of my time here. Before, I lived in my parents’ house. It is very important to put distance between you and your family, because if you do not you will forever remain a child. If you’re turning 18 soon, move out—do whatever you can to get away from your parents. If you can’t get a house or apartment, move in with a friend. If you can’t do that, buy a travel trailer and put it in your parents’ yard, then move into it. If there are any out buildings or a guest house, those are also an option. Better yet, go to a college 500 miles away from your parents. If you cannot move out, move your computer to your bedroom. Go out more—without your parents. Start locking your door. Buy your own food. Make money online blogging, or get a job. Pay the electric bill. Get a driver’s license and a car, or share your parents’ car. Independence is not a psychological mindset. Independence is PROPERTY.

I have no friends and few acquaintances. I am in contact with no one from my previous workplace or college classes. I don’t call them and they don’t call me. If I said I’ve ever had a true friend, I would be lying.

I am going to change this year. I am going to create real connections rather than superficial socialization. I am going to be more emotionally involved—I don’t care if that sounds wimpy.

Reframing Negativity

2009-12-20 Update: You need some negativity in your life to balance out the positivity, so be careful so as not to reframe all your negativity. :smile:

At the college, we have a ritual each semester where we have to evaluate our professors. Student feedback, or so it’s called.

There are 14 categories, including things like “gives examples,” “answers questions,” and “is fair.” You can rate 1 to 5 on each.

This seems like a negative thing, because you have to rate your professor’s performance objectively. You have to decide how he’s done, evaluate him in many categories, and then write suggestions (most people don’t do this). It’s a big responsibility, because college administrators will be judging his merits, worthiness, and teaching ability based on your report.

But in my reality, this isn’t the case at all. If you have a bad teacher, and you give him all 1’s on his evaluation, do you know what happens? He gets worse. Usually it’s quite noticeable. The next class day he will be all flustered and confused. He will say things that make no sense. The grade you’ve given him will be confirmed.

If you give him 5’s, on the other hand, he will become far better. The coursework will just start making sense to you, he’ll be expalining concepts and formulas in a clear manner, and everyone in the class will seem happier.

This totally contradicts the common belief of reality. The common belief is that your opinion is independent of circumstances or facts. But common beliefs are common in common people. You can’t expect to be extraordinary if you’re doing what everyone else does. It’s extraordinary to go from a medium telephoto lens to an extreme wide-angle lens, because everything looks so different. So pick the extraordinary lens.

With your new lens, thoughts are inextricably linked to reality. They’re one and the same. If you think negativity, you’ll give more people 1’s, and then you’ll feel more negative and more negativity will come back on you. You’ll hope to find friends and a loving partner who bring positivity into your life, but all you’ll find is negative people. No one will rescue you from negativity. By waiting for a twist of fate to change your circumstances, you’re giving up control of your life. When you hand your keys over to some other person or group, the results are never good because no one else can manage two lives. You stagnate, contribute nothing to the world, and become a boring person in general. You won’t find the happy people, because they’ll all become like ghosts. You won’t even see them. The only way to attract others is to be attractive yourself, and the way to do that is through positive action. Writing this paragraph was a very positive thing to do. :grin:

A lot of people call this the law of attraction.

When you share this with others, you can expect criticism and unrest. Many people don’t want to believe their beliefs reflect on others. If you’re influencing everyone around you, you have a lot of power, and power is a scary thing. Wielding power is more scary than being subject to it, at least initially. That’s why 95% of people are afraid of public speaking. You have a lot of power when you’re addressing a large group. You can give them good ideas or you can give them bad ideas. What if you make a mistake and people start throwing food and sharp objects at you?

Most of us are not fighting wars or being stalked by lions or starving to death. All of the fear, stress, and uncertainty at work or at the mall or among friends is 100% phony. People are not going to start throwing knives at you or machine gunning you for mispronouncing a word. Sure, you could get fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment or ostracized by your friends, but that’s highly unlikely, and if it does happen, it’s positive because you’re completely free to meet new people and make new connections. You can easily go into betrayal / heartache / revenge mode instead, but then you become a more negative person. In negative mode, you build walls instead of bridges. Bridges are better, because they expand your intelligence and influence. You might lose a few cities to roving barbarians, but it’s much safer to expand your civilization into new territory rather than to relentlessly defend what you have. Walls feel safe and secure, but they make you a prisoner. Past accomplishments are decaying and future circumstances are imaginary—the only true safety is in continued expansion a.k.a. growth.

Fears of public speaking are imaginary, because the worst that can happen is that you’ll be boring. Usually, you become boring from worrying too much about the opinions of others. But it’s not even the average opinion of the group that you’re worried about—it’s the group’s most vocal, negative members. The critics. Don’t listen to the critics.

The critics tell you to bite your tongue. Don’t share your opinions with others—you might offend them. Not everyone believes what you do. Some might find you terribly offensive. Everyone is uniquely valuable—you have no right to encroach upon the beliefs of others. I have no right to go up to people and tell them how eating meat is sapping their strength or how cancer can be readily cured.

This is often called social resistance. We conform to the demands of the least intelligent people. This manifests itself through weasel words: we pad our sentences with terms like sometimes, likely, in most people, I think, in my humble opinion, and other nonsense, to demonstrate that we have no idea what we’re talking about and should not be taken seriously. Even if we have something powerful to say, we do everything we can to disempower ourselves by dilluting the message. We refuse to talk honestly with others, for fear of offending them. If I conform to social resistance, instead of writing great articles like Don’t Vote 2008 and The Cancer Myth, I might be writing nothing. Or fluff like “do what you feel” and “there are many factors in curing cancer” (when in fact there is only one). I couldn’t look in the mirror if I was writing that stuff.

We think we have to stick with ‘safe’ subjects. What if instead, you don’t look to others for approval? Even better, believe they want to hear you. That’s much more positive. You’ll taken negativity, and you’ll flip it on its head to create positivity. It doesn’t matter if it’s objectively true—if it empowers you, the belief has served its purpose. What you’ll find is that people will agree with you more as you state your beliefs on clearer and clearer terms. I believe that film photography has no intrinsic value—it’s a much better learning experience to start with digital photography. I believe abortion is murder. I believe factory farming of animals is wrong. I believe that college education is frivilous. I don’t believe in thievery. I don’t believe in having a job. I don’t believe in renting. I’m not afraid to tell people what I believe, and they either accept it at face value or run away. Not many people run away from truth, so if you speak your mind truthfully, most people will not be offended even if you’re clashing with their opinions. If instead, I tried to mirror people I meet, I might start drinking, smoking, taking drugs, or shoplifting instead (there are plenty of people doing those things). If you don’t set your beliefs, other people will set them for you.

Thusly, it is a very positive thing to have strong opinions and to share them readily. These opinions have to be based in fact or usefulness, of course, but as long as you haven’t become the slave of your beliefs (like many people do with religion), it’s fine to have a voice. Not only is it fine, but it’s the only way to go.

If you’re proven wrong or you find a better system later, there’s no shame in announcing a correction. Most people are so afraid of being wrong that they never say anything that can be disputed. They only make easy, obvious announcements that are clearly fact, much like a computer regurgitates information. The keys on my keyboard have no mind to type what I’m typing. Do you want to be the senseless keys, or do you want to be the smart brain? In any subject, you can’t be right without the risk of being wrong. You can’t have success without the risk of failure. If you have no risk of failing, any success you have is guaranteed. This means it is completely worthless. Your success is no more than normal and expected mediocrity. Raise the stakes, because you’re not trying hard enough.

When I believed that it was in my power to “offend” other people, I was subscribing to a very negative belief. Apart from physical violence, you can’t actually offend anyone else—only they can offend themselves.

Remember always that negative people defend what they have; positive people scout for new opportunities.

Going back to the example of evaluating your teacher with 1’s or 5’s: your teacher will always get better if you give him high marks instead of low marks. It’s an indisputable fact. This question is the downfall of objectivists: is the improvement “real,” or does it merely represent confirmation bias on my part (i.e. “imaginary”). Is change really happening, or am I just seeing what I want to see?

The truth is, truth is irrelevant.

The objectivists will say that it is not ‘fair’ to everyone else if you give ‘unfair’ ratings. They’re assuming that ratings are a zero-sum game. Your evaluations should reflect your professors’ showmanship, because when you give a good score, you’re effectively giving bad scores to everyone else.

This is baloney. If you’re going to be completely objective, you should do this: give really good scores to your bad teachers, because it will result in noticeable improvement. But if your history teacher makes the Vietnam War come alive, you should give him low scores, because that will bring him back from extraordinary to ordinary. Everyone needs to be in the safe and ordinary middle.

Of course, this is hogwash, no matter what perspective you have. Even my seven-year-old sister Rachel would agree.

Objectivism is hogwash, and realists aren’t objective at all. They’re negative. Being objective is useless, because all we have is negativity or positivity. You can’t choose between good and evil by splitting your time equally between doing good and doing evil. If you’re being neutral, you’re doing nothing, and doing nothing is always negative. Forsaking your human power and potential is never a neutral decision. It can only be negative.

Most people have negative belief systems. I could say this is a negative thing, but it is in fact quite positive because it means they have many opportunities for personal growth. Though I’ve written a book worth of articles, I’m just as much a beginner as you. The limit of our potential is only the limit of our mind.

It’s easy to become negative when all you’re doing is busywork. Conversely, it’s hard to be anything but positive when you’re working for the highest good of all. Negative emotions are a sign that you’re not accomplishing enough—you need to either change focus or work a lot harder on your current projects. For me, it’s inspiring greatness in others, which I do through artistic photography and writing articles like these. Sometimes I get tired of writing so I take or edit photos instead. Usually I’m not thinking about helping others while in creative flow, but everything builds on that, even if it’s not present every second.

Negativity is just positivity in disguise.

The Perks of Having a Job

2009-12-20 Update: Having a job is not so bad after all. I apologize to those I’ve misled and encourage you to keep your job if you enjoy it or to support your family.

I know a lot of people like to tear down gainful employment in general, but there really are some good benefits to be had.

1. Guaranteed payment for your work.

If you own a restaurant, and it’s losing money, can you get out of paying your employees? No—you still must pay them for the work they’ve done. While you can let them go, you can’t refuse to pay for the work they’ve already done, even if you’re going into debt yourself. In this relationship, employees are in a much safer position.

2. Trading time for money.

In a job, it doesn’t matter if you spend eight hours cleaning a mop bucket or finding the cure for cancer. You get the same wages either way. Your pay has nothing to do with the value of your contributions.

You can use this to your advantage by wasting time and reducing the value of your contribution. This way, you can become a leech rather than an asset. It feels fun, because you know assets aren’t valued anyway. This brings us to…

3. Innovation is discouraged.

As a cashier, you don’t have to invent a new method of barcode entry or re-organize the checkout lanes to flow more smoothly. You just have to do a repetitive job reasonably well, and then you can reasonably expect to continue being employed. Though you can be let go at any time, you can reasonably expect to find a similar job elsewhere. Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

If you do find a way to make the checkout process twice as fast, you can bet your fellow employees are going to be quite unhappy that you’re out-doing them. Even if they can easily pick up on the same skills you’ve developed, an across-the-board increase in efficiency will put some people out of jobs. Then, they’ll have the onerous task of securing jobs elsewhere, losing their beloved friends, and perhaps even starting over with lower wages.

Innovation cuts jobs. For example, in my Grandma’s time, people would go to the local cobbler to have their shoes repaired, often with nails and glue. Now, most people throw out shoes and replace them, because it’s cheaper and more efficient than having them repaired. The shoe-making process has been refined. Only rich people have their shoes repaired, and that’s only because they have shoes that are very expensive to replace.

If you’re interested in maintaining the current jobs, you have to be against innovation, because innovation will invalidate many current jobs. For the typical employee, innovation, renewal, and obsolescence are scary words. Don’t expect your revolutionary ideas to be accepted in an office setting.

The benefit here is that once you know innovation is unwelcome, the burden to innovate is removed from your shoulders. If you feel the inclination to do something new, you can easily remind yourself that you’d just be causing trouble.

4. No need to think.

While the unemployed enjoy the process of uncertainty, refinement, and discovery, with a job, you don’t have to think much about anything. You can easily lose yourself in your work, because your work is all predictable and planned. Instead of deciding the best course of action for the company, you’re told what to do by your boss. There’s no need to question it, because if you do exactly what he says yet something goes wrong, you can blame him for it and your boss’ boss will agree.

When you become the boss, you might be worried that you’ll start having to think. Fortunately, the chain of command is there to rescue you. You still don’t have to think, because you have plenty of bosses to tell you what to do. But you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile, because you know there are a few people who call you “boss.”

The bigger the corporation, the bigger the chain of command. You can work for decades through dozens of promotions without really becoming the boss of anything. Even though your title may read “Creative Director,” your position can actually be fulfilled by an android, or a computer program with enough “if” branches.

5. A policy for every occasion.

You’ll never be forced to make a truly original decision, because there’s a policy in the manual to cover everything you do. If not, perhaps two policies can be combined, or, in super-rare instances, a new policy can be created.

Of course, you must never dare go to the policy manual yourself. It must be filtered through at least five other people, and you must go to them first and then wait three days for a response. If you fix the hole in the roof without waiting three days for the policy on roof repair, you must be “disciplined.” Perhaps your master will go easy on you and opt for “verbal admonishment.”

If you read the policy manual, and you find that the computing security policy requires that all employees use unguessable passwords, but you know everyone is using their last name, don’t dare report it. When you report it, you’ll find that the true purpose of all these policies is to make everything a policy violation. Then, sanctions can be invoked against trouble-makers, while everyone else is ignored.

The policies are whatever they say they are. You’re just here to follow orders. It’s a cozy place to be.

6. Don’t fix a problem—get someone else to do it.

When I was working in a Volusia County library, I recall encountering a cryptic error message on the cash register. It was bad news, because there were patrons lined up to pay fines, and we didn’t have a working register to ring them up. While the librarian was asking her boss for advice over the phone, I downloaded the manual for the cash register and found that “EEEEEEEE” means to replace the receipt paper.

Delighted, the librarian told her boss how I found the solution. After listening for a moment, she looked at me and said: “We’re not allowed to look at the manual.”

When you work at a “normal” job, you can expect complete idiocy from the bureaucrats in that company. It’s even more idiotic if the company is part of the government (like the library system), because there’s no reason for the government to generate a profit. Public libraries get millions in tax dollars every year, and they repeatedly squander it through idiotic policies and pointless red tape.

If you have a job in one of these companies, it’s nice because the people above you love helpless people. They’ll pat you on the back when you go to them to fix a problem you could’ve easily fixed yourself.

7. A regimented life.

If you work 9-to-5, you can’t stay up till 4 A.M. every night. Instead, you settle into an unchanging rhythm, enforced by the rigors of your job. Feel more productive at 8 P.M.? Too bad; you can’t work then. You have to work when you’re scheduled to work.

Soon, your whole life becomes anchored to your job. Want to eat dinner at 4:30? Too bad; you work till 5. The weekend is a treasured time, but somehow you end up spending it talking about your job. Perhaps you even go out with friends from work. Either way, you keep spending time on your job, the same job where you’re stifled and bossed around.

Your lunch break is often mandated by company policy. It might even be scheduled from 12 to 1 or 1 to 2. When I work, sometimes I skip lunch entirely, but if I had a job, I’d have to eat lunch (or eat nothing) when they told me to.

The benefit here, once again, is that you don’t have to make decisions, because the decisions have already been made for you. Employment is the perfect refuge for people who don’t enjoy holding authority over their lives.

8. Detachment and mediocrity.

Since you’re not doing anything truly valuable or integral to the company, you don’t have to care too much for its success. You’ve seen people care too much about the company’s success before. They started to innovate, which eventually got them fired. You know the dangers of caring too much. You’re expected to be a mediocre person, who does a mediocre job in a mediocre way. Mediocrity is okay, because the company doesn’t need you. Sure, there are a few important, bright minds behind the scenes in every corporation, but they contribute enough that everyone else can be dead weight.

Instead of walking quickly, walk slowly. Instead of eating lunch in 32 minutes, use up the whole hour. Your job isn’t something exciting enough that you should be running back to it. It’s just a way to earn money: the only way you have.

Because your job doesn’t matter, you become detached from it. You spend the best hours of your day on busywork.

9. Friendship, dating, and social proof.

The people at your job are easy to make friends with, because they’re mediocre, soulless non-innovators just like yourself. You can easily get along with them by talking about the weather or current events. Don’t dare get into anything deep like religion, abortion, or financial politics. You know that friendships are based on superficiality. If you get into anything deep, you’re poised to destroy the friendship.

If you’re looking for a “compatible” partner, look no further than the office. The same mediocre, soulless non-innovators that are your friends can become your dates!

Plus, whenever you’re around strangers, you can connect with them by telling them you have a job. They have jobs too. They’re just like you! You can all be one big happy family of mediocre, soulless non-innovators.

10. Save for retirement.

When you have a job, our benevolent government deducts money from your paychecks. That money goes to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (coming soon: Iran and Russia). Once you’ve become old and decrepit from decades of unfulfilling busywork, the state will return the money it owes you, so you can live in comfort tending to small plants in your garden, waiting for death.

Need your money now? No you don’t. Obviously, the government knows how to save your money better than you. You know nothing. You’re a dummy. A mediocre, soulless non-innovator. Remember?

The employee mentality

With a “normal” job, you never really have to think, because you can leave the thinking to other people your whole life. You’re already doing that at your job; why not apply the same principles to other areas of your life?

Need spiritual fulfillment? Join a religion. As long as you pray (and pay) regularly, you’ll be fine. Nevermind that you could create your own religion for yourself that would be ten times more empowering.

Need entertainment? You should, after having a job for a while. Go to the movies, or pay for cable television. Then, you can watch the same garbage everyone else is watching and pretend to feel smart.

Need more money? Go to college and pretend to learn something. Then you can become the boss at your job. Don’t be scared—the chain of command will protect you from any real decision-making.

Have a problem? Pretend it isn’t there. Perhaps it will go away, or you’ll die before you have to confront it.

Why are you an employee? Can’t you become a freelance photographer, or start your own business selling widgets, or record a great music CD and collect royalties on it? If you can’t think of anything better, start a website condemning jobs, and make money off that. Plenty of people are supporting themselves without sacrificing their morals or their hearts. Employment is neither a rite of passage nor a badge of honor.

Why do you have a job? So you can die before you have to confront life?

Your Blog is a Marching Wiki

When I think of a wiki, I think of a collection of articles that can be edited by anyone. But wikis have another core trait. If you’ve ever looked up an article on Wikipedia, you’ve noticed that practically every other word is a link to related articles in the wiki.

There are no direct links to external sites. All those are footnotes or references, appearing at the bottom of the page. But within the text, there are internal links all over the place. It’s a self-contained Internet.

I think your blog should be the same way. This isn’t reasonable until you’ve built up a good collection of content—perhaps thirty articles at least. But once you’ve done that, you should start linking to them whenever relevant. When I talk about artistic photography, I’ll link to my gallery, and when I talk about happiness, I’ll probably link to How to Be Happy. And when I talk about linking, darn it, I’ll link to The Perils of Redundant Linking. These links are redundant to people who read my whole blog from start to finish, but those people can just ignore the links. The larger majority skims two or three of my articles to take in the essential points, and for them, the links are invaluable, because they connect them with other subjects of interest. Because the links are contextual and manually added by me and me alone, they’re better and more relevant than what any search engine or group of people can offer.

I believe in subjective reality / multiple truths. Wikis are disconcerting because they try in vain to represent an objective reality by synthesizing and representing the beliefs of hundreds of people. Sometimes, it works, but within the whole wiki you always see incongruity. Certain articles read like advertisements, others are comical, others are dead serious. Some use weak language and weasel words like “may have,” “possibly,” and “back in the day,” while others try to be overly-precise, to the point of being inaccurate. I could say John Lennon was killed at 1980-12-08T22:52:52-05, and it would be very precise, but it wouldn’t be accurate. Even if I am accurate, my accuracy is unprovable. The point is, no two people have the same perspective on wording or accuracy. When you merge too many perspectives, you end up with a muddled mess. Sure, like Wikipedia, you can still be informative, but it’s nonetheless a mess. There’s room for someone else to come along with a clear vision and really share expertise with others. Committees don’t do this. One person alone, having synthesized the perspectives of the world in a way more congruent than any collection of people, shares knowledge more compelling and evolved than all else.

Your blog should be a marching wiki, meaning it marches forward without looking back. Ordinary wikis do not march. Old articles are constantly being revised, updated, and perfected. Many bloggers and photographers refuse to let go. They spend so much time revamping old stuff, they never create anything new. If you’re drafting a book, this is fine. But like publishing a book, I consider posting an article to my blog a singular act representing your beliefs and knowledge at a fixed point in time. Unless I find a typo, or a broken link, or I write something new that expounds heavily upon the topic, I don’t update the old post. When I update the old post, it’s just to correct those errors or add a link to the new post.

Substantially changing the content of old articles can be a good thing for your readers, but that doesn’t make it worthwhile. Your time is much better spent putting what you’ve learned into a congruent, fine-tuned, new work of art, rather than adding bells to an old piece. Rewriting your archives can even be a disservice to your readers, because those articles show your history and your beliefs at a previous point in time. Do you dare erase your past? Would you rewrite and dress up an essay from middle school for a college assignment? No—you’d write something new entirely, and it would be much more evolved than your old work.

If you strive for a faster pace of evolution in your persona and your writing, tending to your old work will seem as unusual as tracing your drawings from kindergarten. Sure, tracing your childhood sketches would garner you experience, but the experience of creating anew is far greater than dwelling in the past. Our time is limited in this life, so it is important to optimize our learning processes as far as possible.

Similarly, don’t go back to old articles to add links to new articles, unless it’s something really important. I’ve done it about ten times, and considering I’ve been blogging for eight months and have written hundreds of posts, that isn’t a lot. While I could go back to Investment and Efficiency and add a whole bunch of (relevant) links to newer work, including this article, it would actually distract my readers. Simply put, if I wanted to link to newer stuff in the older article, I would’ve written the newer stuff first. I didn’t, so the older stuff doesn’t need to reference the future.

When you establish yourself as a soldier on the march, you lift a great weight off your shoulders. No longer must you worry about maintaining continuity with the past. In fact, I encourage you to openly contradict your past—should it represent the evolution of your opinions, or a different perspective that is valuable to your readers. Don’t feel you have to explain yourself. Don’t write for the critics. Most people aren’t trying to shoot holes through your work; they want to share in the wealth of your knowledge. They’re just like you. It’s far more important to cater to the important people, rather than a vocal, critical minority.

Abandoning continuity is most important for beliefs, but also includes presentation. In some articles, I highlight key points in italics; in others I use bold. In my school essays, I underline. Sometimes I’ll use inline bold headings like this, while other times I’ll use large headings bounded by line breaks, which really draw the eye. In some articles, I highlight nothing, because everything is important. I don’t have to make a list of rules for myself to govern these processes. I do whatever feels right in the present context. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t match up exactly with my history.

Let your beliefs and standards be fluid like water, changing to meet the demands of different terrain, rather than rigid and inflexible like ice. Your important beliefs may turn to ice, but even ice can melt or break. If this happens, don’t resist it—recognize it as inevitable change: the only way to transcend your current level.

Finally, don’t create lists of rules for yourself. There are plenty of other people who are happy to do this for you; you don’t need even more rules. You are your own boss, and you control your own destiny.

Why Abortion is Wrong Even if it’s Right

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

Definitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

The human rights question

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

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

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

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

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

The “truths” abortionists hold to be self-evident

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

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

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

Pragmatism vs. idealism : debunking the myth

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

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

The hidden dark side of abortion

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

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

The case of rape

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

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

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

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

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

The bias against teenage pregnancy

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

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

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

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

A better life

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

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

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

Should governments criminalize abortions?

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

If you’re considering an abortion:

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

Conquering Big Problems: An Introduction

I don’t hate problems. Problems are challenges, and all challenges are an opportunity for growth. Big problems are an opportunity for big growth. But a problem that has only grown through negligence yields little growth.

A small hole in your roof is a small problem. Sure, the occasional bug will come in, but it isn’t any risk to your shelter. If it’s hot out, turn up the air conditioner. If it’s cold, put some more logs on the fire. If it rains, put a bucket under it.

Perhaps you grow tired of these kludges. Every month you’re paying more on your electric bill. You left the house for a week, the bucket filled up, and the overage flooded your living room. The hole has grown a little bit. Birds are beginning to nest in your house. They are feasting on the lizards that have also found refuge inside.

The next step is to cover the hole. It’s still under control. Bits of your roof are being eaten away, but you can cover the hole with a frisbee. So you do that. The frisbee blows away. Darn it. Next step is to put a rock on the frisbee. You’re scared of heights, so it’s all you can do to go up there. In fact, the first time you threw it up there and got lucky. This time you aren’t so lucky and the frisbee lands far from the hole.

You don’t want to pay anyone to go up there and secure the frisbee, or, heaven forbid, fix the hole. This is because you aren’t convinced it’s a real problem yet. Instead, you fasten a rag to your inside ceiling with duct tape. The rag blocks the hole completely. A few rainy days go by, and only a few drops fall. You’re heating bills are back to normal. Everything seems alright.

Then, a big storm comes. Rain pounds your roof for hours. The small hole becomes a gaping hole. Your attic floods with water, until the whole roof collapses under the weight.

This is now a big problem.

All along, you had warning signs. The birds, the lizards, the leakage, the sagging ceiling before the collapse. Those events were all telling you to do something, pushing you, forcing you, yet you ignored the signs.

Don’t ignore the signs.

If there’s a problem, fix it now. If you don’t even know what the problem is, try to find out. Always be in motion.

I have a friend who didn’t want to fix her teeth when she was younger. She had all sorts of cavities and decay, but she’d protest that it wasn’t worth the money to fix. I don’t know if it was for lack of flossing and brushing. Her excuse was that she could wait till she’s older and have all her teeth removed and replaced with dentures. Coming from a woman in her thirties, this is nothing short of absurd.

Recently, she told me that she had $5000 in surgery done on a molar, with no insurance to cover it. The tooth had to be drilled out and bone had to be replaced. Knowing her, she waited too long; way too long. A relatively minor problem became a huge pain requiring invasive surgery. A little problem became a big problem.

Here’s another example. For six and a half months this site was richardxthripp.richardxthripp.com. I always intended for it to be a multi-user site, but didn’t consider Thripp.com because it was taken. I became convinced that richardxthripp.com was better, more distinctive, more interesting, despite it’s length.

I’d become increasingly aware of the length of the domain. When I moved to WordPress MU at first, I had to switch to subdirectories as my host wouldn’t support subdomains. I became richardxthripp.com/richardxthripp, but I continued using the subdomain in print (with an HTTP 301 redirect).

When I switched hosts, I soon became aware the new host supports virtual subdomains. “Can’t change it,” I thought. It’s too much trouble. It’s not designed to be changed. Subdirectories are better branded. Everyone’s used to it. This was actually sour grapes and complacency bias. I didn’t find out till thripp.com became available, which I immediately snatched up. After a couple hours of hard thought, I decided to switch to subdomains and move from richardxthripp.com to thripp.com all in one go. It was hard work, securing all the old links while making the switch, but it was worth it. At the same time, I chose to begin using “rxthripp.com” where convenient in print and in branding for this site, as a shorter domain, though it redirects to the formal address, richardxthripp.thripp.com.

I’ve already printed “richardxthripp.richardxthripp.com” on the backs of thousands of 4*6 photographs. I give them out to everyone I meet. It may take me years to exhaust the old stock. But the good thing is I’ve still fixed the problem early. I could’ve waited till 2030 once I’d printed the old site on millions of items. Perhaps I’d have published several books with the address. Either way, even the old URLs could easily work forever, changing them would produce huge discontinuties in my identity. Compare that to a small blip now. Before the switch, the problem seemed huge (WordPress MU doesn’t let you switch domains and URL structures easily). In hindsight, it’s nothing.

Don’t convince yourself that something isn’t a problem just because it feels safe. I’ve done it too many times before. If you’re a thief but you’ve convinced yourself stealing is okay, that’s a problem. In ethical dilemmas and beyond, I find it useful to ask, “If I had unlimited money / time / resources, would I think this is wrong, or a problem?” “If I had unlimited money, would I go to college?” If the answer is no and you’re in college, you have a problem. You shouldn’t be there. I have a problem right now, because I’m doing just that. The first step is acknowledging you have a problem for which you have no solution nor plan of action. That takes courage.

Is it really a problem?

The problems you have may be nothing. Think of the ideal you. The ideal you probably has loads of money—not that that defines him. It’s simply a fact that huge sums of cash can obliterate huge problems. If you have enough money, you can literally move a mountain. The money doesn’t move the mountain per se, but other people will be happy to do the work in exchange for it, because they know they can use it to get the food, houses, cars, and gadgets they need. The ideal you has a lot of money, because the ideal you has done so much good for the world that he is a magnet for coinage. People are literally forcing him to accept donations.

If you have a problem that can be solved by money, it isn’t a big problem. A big problem is being at the end of your life but not having found your purpose. A big problem is dying from cancer but not knowing the cure. A big problem kills you, or has a highly damaging effect on the health of you or your family. Most of life’s problems are not big problems. For the purpose of comparison, small problems can be called big problems. Life isn’t objective.

Persistent problems require persistent solutions.

Thirst is a big problem. If you refuse to drink liquids for a few months, you will die, no doubt about it. If you drink sixteen gallons of water today so that you can go on a liquid fast for the next few weeks, don’t be surprised when it ends disastrously. Thirst is a persistent problem. You can’t drink your life’s water now to get it over with. You have to take in fluids every day. You have to eliminate these fluids every day once they’ve served your body’s purpose. Most people have to do this many times per day. It never ends. The problem cannot be stopped. A one-off solution simply won’t work; you must be constantly fighting the problem to keep it at bay.

A normal problem requires a heroic solution; a singular, overwhelming assault in which the problem is systematically slaughtered. I borrow this terminology from heroic medicine. In heroic medicine, if your arm is itchy, the solution is to chop it off and cauterize the flesh (I exaggerate). But let’s think of a less extreme, yet still heroic, solution. You know your arm is going to feel an itch again. It’s done it before, hundreds of times. You’ll have to scratch it. It will distract you many times. Why not just scratch it now until it’s scarred and bloody, so you never have to do it again? Of course that’s a horrible idea and won’t work. After the mutilation, the scabs will prove themselves far itchier. The next heroic solution is to remove the sensation of touch from your arm. This can be accomplished through the marvels of modern surgery. Maybe you won’t be able to feel anything after electrostatic shocks?

Obviously, applying heroic solutions to persistent problems is completely ridiculous. Yet you see people doing it every day without realizing it. Usually it just isn’t so blatant.

The Case of Cancer

Cancer is a good example of a persistent problem being attacked with a heroic solution. What are we told? The solution is early detection. This requires regular probing. Once you’ve been probed, and the cancer, discovered (it’s inevitable), the next step is to forcibly remove it. If it’s not in a position to be cut out of you, we’ll poison or burn you till it dies. If this were a Pokémon game, the battle would be Human [Pikachu] vs. Cancer [Mewtwo], and the theory would be that Pikachu has 250 hit points (HP) and Mewtwo has 240. Mewtwo’s only known skill is “String Shot,” which reduces your agility but doesn’t reduce your HP. However, after being hit with String Shot 25 times, you die. Letting the cancer live isn’t an option. The only way you can effectively hurt Mewtwo is with Equal Damage, which reduces Mewtwo’s HP by 10, but also brings you down by 10. Think of this as chemotherapy treatment. After 23 rounds of “treatment,” the cancer is weak and near death, with 10 HP. You are weak and near death with 20 HP, but the cancer is weaker. The doctors and your family are cheering. “We’ve almost done it!”, they shout. Then, Mewtwo unleashes his secret weapon, a move called Recover which you didn’t know about. In one turn, his HP shoots up to 130. He’s stronger than ever. You use Equal Damage one more time, and it’s 120 to 10. Then, he knocks you out with one String Shot. My cousin had brain cancer, back when we didn’t know the cure. He was doing well with radiation treatment. Then, the cancer came back, stronger than ever, and killed him just like nothing.

Little did we know that Pikachu has a secret move called Fruit Seeds, in which he attacks Mewtwo with the seeds of fruit that break down his defenses, cutting his HP by 100 while increasing ours by 50. The cure for cancer, which I’ve written more about here, is a vitamin found in the seeds of fruit such as apples, watermelons, and especially apricots. Rogue healing cells, unassigned a duty, reproduce swiftly, clogging your internals with unproductive tumors. The only way to kill them is to provide your body with the enzyme (vitamin B17) that breaks them down. Cancer is a persistent problem; the persistent solution is to eat fruit every day, whole with the seeds. If you already have cancer, the tumors won’t go away, but they’ll stop growing and you’ll live. But if you’re at the point that three String Shots will wipe you out, it may be too late.

Attacking cancer with cutting, burning, and poisoning is archaic. It’s a heroic solution attacking a persistent problem. It doesn’t work. It’s a leftover from the dark ages.

Don’t let mismatched solutions invade your life. Instead of belatedly masking tooth decay with expensive, painful root canals, start flossing your teeth now, every day. [Tip: bleeding is normal because your gums are damaged from unrelenting exposure to bacteria. It should subside within two weeks.] If you hate your name, and you know you’re always going to hate your name, change it. My Dad did this back in the 80’s, and from him I got the Thripp name. Don’t wait. Start telling people your new name before you even try to have it changed. A terrible name is a big, unceasing problem, and it requires a big, unceasing solution.

If you’ve come this far, you may now realize you have no big problems. Get some, because in part 2, I’ll be tackling intermittent and singular problems.

The Library on Hold

If you follow my Twitter, you know I’ve been consumed with coding the OPAC for my public library these past seven days. Also, I pissed off greatly angered my Dad recently. I’m constantly negative / patronizing around him. It’s like a subconscious force. So much for trying to be personally developed.

The library is looking really great now; check out this search for example. I’m putting it on hold starting right now. I won’t work any more on it for one month. Hold me to that promise, okay?

The problem with it is that it’s not the best way for my to contribute to the world at the moment. The world starts at home, so it doesn’t matter how much you’re contributing if you’re leeching at home. I have some work to do.

I listened to a lot of back episodes from Uncontrolled Vocabulary. Fascinating talk show on librarianship. I didn’t know that people talked about things like taxonomy schemas and Library of Congress subject headings en masse.

I’m going to take and post some new photos. Maybe I’ll even write something. Or if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll take a photo and then write a short paragraph about it. It’s all good.

I wrote three posts on Daytona State College News a few days ago. That thing gets tons of search traffic. Must be because of it’s high ranking.

I’m counting… I have 18 days till the return to college. 10 days till birthday #17. I still have time to make some progress.

I replaced the $20/day plaque with one that says $1/day. That’s more reasonable. My online ventures are averaging 60 cents per day this month. It’s in reach, I say!

See y’all around. Actually, not around. Right here.

Disparate Value

If I could just get my cat to wash the dishes and mop the floor, I’d have a cat worth millions of dollars. It doesn’t matter that you can hire someone to do the work for several dollars an hour. If the cat did it, it would be special and worth far more. Any sort of animal, for that matter.

Does that mean that the cat’s work is intrinsically more valuable than mine? Not in the slightest. In fact, it’s not as safe to have the cat do housework. Cats aren’t skillful homemakers. My cat has no proven track record, nor does her species. Who knows when she will tire of the work and start breaking stuff. She has to take naps every few hours. For the same work, a person should be paid far more than a cat.

Why then, is the value the cat commands so disparate, so far in excess of that of a normal person? Simply because it’s packaged in a unique, original, unheard-of form. People will pay you big money if you can do something that no one else can do, even if it’s totally useless. What real value do clowns contribute to the world–besides entertainment? If everyone is paid by the intrinsic value of their worth, clowns would get nothing.

To harness the power of disparate value, you need to be doing something that is eye-catching, entertaining, and different. It’s easy to have negative, disparate value. Just break a few limbs, and then see how hard it is to work efficiently. If you go to the bookstore and start ripping the covers off books, they really aren’t worth any less. There’s no unique information on the cover that the books’ contents cannot be without. All the informative and practical value remains untouched. Yet try selling them next to the others–or for any price at all, and you’ll see how disparate their value is. For no logical reason.

It’s easy to think of situations that will generate positive disparate value, which is a far better place to be at. Say I’m a typist. I type 75 words a minute, accurately, swiftly, and without losing focus. That’s a pretty good skill, but I’m not special. Lots of other people can do what I do.

Now let’s say instead, through some magical forces, I type 750 words a minute. When I type, all you see is a blur because my fingers are moving so fast, they disappear. The screen floods with text. If I was paid $10 for my efforts at 75 words per minute, would $100 be a reasonable pay at 750 words per minute?

Nope. I’m worth more than the aggregate of my efficiency. I could provide my services to businesses that need last-minute transcribing, at a high cost. Perhaps $1000 an hour would be more reasonable.

But in reality, I’d make far more for my talents, perhaps millions. Think of all the television shows and magazines I could be featured in. I could start a course to share my talent with others. Even if it was impossible to share, there’d still be plenty of followers who would gladly waste their money. The value (money) I can demand is disparate to the raw value of my services.

Let’s say I can only type 100 words per minute, but I can also play the piano, tune a guitar, write moderately-good articles, ride a skateboard, build houses, paint, draw, create websites, and do electrical wiring. All these things I do moderately well. Perhaps even better. If my mastery is quantifiable, I’m above 90% of the crowd with all these talents. Does that make me more valuable as a typist?

Not in the slightest. I may be a dynamo and a fascinating person, but those are worth nothing on their own. I’d be better off if I could have all my other skills erased from my brain, and replaced with the ability to type 750 words per minute. From a monetary standpoint, at least. The reason I keep coming back to money, is that it’s our primary means of representing value. Typing 750 words per minute should not trump an arsenal of normal skills, but it does.

If the Mona Lisa is worth $100 million, does that mean a painting 1% as good is worth $1 million? Nope. If I can define something 1% as good as the Mona Lisa, it’s a painting that you couldn’t even give away. 1% is not enough. Even a work of art 75% as good would not be worth half as much. One razor-sharp knife is worth more than a hundred dull knives.

Excellence is exponential. On a scale of 10, going from a 9 to a 10 is hundreds of times harder than going from a 1 to a 2. Anyone can go from a 1 to a 2. It requires nearly no effort whatsoever. But if you can make the jump to the top of the mountain, you have something of true, preferential value. Oftentimes, it’s better to pick one skill. One feverishly developed skill. You’re so good, you make everyone else in your niche look like piles of garbage. The problem I find with this, is that it doesn’t feel right to pick one skill. That’s why most people don’t do it, remaining uneventfully ordinary.

The best way, however, is to develop a suite of skills that all play off each other rather than being disparate. The underlying connections between them create a wall of strength rather than islands of weakness. Chaos theory in action. Often, this is the same as developing one skill, but from a different angle. This is easier said than done. In fact, it’s harder than becoming a one-hit wonder. But it’s a true path, a road you can look to every day with eager anticipation. I can never feel the same passion for practicing scales and songs all day long, or taking pictures from dawn to dusk. Picking one path is the best way to harness disparate value, but it isn’t human. People aren’t meant to stick to one thing. We think about everything: we ponder, analyze, reflect, multi-task, pray, think, forget, lose focus. Animals don’t do this. They work all the more efficiently for it.

All the things that “waste time” are actually our strengths. They endow us with our own disparate value separate from everything else in this world. I’m happy to be a human rather than a cat, or a bird, or a flea. Once you become happy and committed to your existence, you can leverage disparate value to unlock exponential growth. I’ll be with you.

A Series of Near-Hits

In life, it’s easy to go through a process called a series of near-hits, where you get close to the mark many times in a row without ever succeeding. An invisible wall stops you from reaching the goal, but you expend an increasing amount of effort for ever-reducing gains.

Sometimes, this is the story of a person’s whole life: a series of failures which were almost successes. “Failure,” of course, is a relative term. Perhaps he succeeded in supporting his family, but failed as a businessman. Perhaps he was a successful businessman who ignored his family. For my purposes, the shortcoming can be anything.

More often, the leech attacks you for just a day in your life, or perhaps in a minor hobby over a period of months. It could be just a few minutes. I had one of these experiences last week.

The night sky in my front yard was flashing with bolts of lightning; not a common sight in this area. Usually the sky flashes, but there are no bolts. As impressive as that is, it looks like nothing on film. This was different. I ran out with my camera, and, not owning a tripod, I braced the camera against the fence and took dozens of two-second exposures of the sky. These were the 15 best:

Mediocre lightning series

Click above to enlarge the thumbnails. If you can’t tell at this size, there are a bunch of shots of lightning; usually just a couple small branches across the clouds, or light in absence of a trunk. The top-right one looks good, but it’s blurry because I slipped with the camera. There is no bolt, so you can’t tell what it is except in this context. None of the photos are particularly good. They are a series of near-hits.

At this point, my excitement from seeing the awesome flashes had disappeared, and I was thoroughly ravaged by the Florida mosquitoes. There were a lot of good shots to be had, but magically I’d missed all of them. My outing was a complete waste of time.

It wasn’t really a complete waste of time; it just seemed it. Since I’m a photographer, nothing I do with my camera can be a complete waste of time, unlike for you non-photographers. I have an in-built advantage. However, if my next several shots are like this, the series of near-hits may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ll subconsciously sabotage my efforts because I’ll become afraid of taking a good photograph, or I’ll want to prove to my mind that the world is against me. Either way, it becomes a repetitive cycle.

Personally developed people enjoy exponential progress, because it’s so much faster than advancing linearly. While with 5 + 5 + 5 you have 15, with 5 * 5 * 5 you’re way ahead at 125. It’s a lot nicer to have your income double each month than increase by 2 dollars (unless you’re making pennies!). If you’ve ever played with a calculator, though you’ve noticed a strange thing happens south of 1. Instead of increasing, the numbers decrease. .5 * .5 * .5 is .125. If each multiplication is a day, continuing the trend, your progress goes down, each and every day. You can never quite hit rock bottom (zero), because you’re experiencing inverse exponential growth. Even if your calculator, after a few more operations, reads zero, you know it’s a lie. A “rounding error,” we call it. If your goal is zero, it’s forever fleeting.

This sickly kind of growth is exactly what a series of near-hits looks like. You get closer while never succeeding. It’s called logarithmic growth, and it’s the opposite of exponential gains. Whereas exponential operations race toward infinity without ever meeting, logarithmic operations reach for zero but never make it. There is an asymptote at zero; an invisible wall which can never be touched. The numbers get closer and closer, with more and more decimal places, but they’ll never match in a million years.

Evil, logarithmic growth

That’s a graph of logarithmic growth. And you want to avoid it. If your stuck in a cycle of logarithmic progress, a.k.a. a series of near-hits, something is wrong. You’ve got to try something new, because you’ve reached a dead end. In the game of life, every turn you waste in this downward spiral is one more turn off your life. It feels comfortable, because you can never crash and you’ll never hit zero, but it’s ultimately a waste because there’s no growth to be had in it. Your in a worse situation than stagnation, because you’ve been tricked into thinking you’re making progress. You could expend years stuck in logarithmic growth. Don’t.

It’s really easy to have “near-hits” in gambling. What they really are is wishful thinking. If the lottery numbers were 4-8-12-16-20, and you picked 5-9-13-17-21, you could say you were really close to winning a million dollars. You “almost” won. Surely, you’re on a lucky streak. You can’t stop; quitting gambling now would be foolish. But in truth, you were no closer to winning than if you had picked 1-2-3-5-6. Either set of numbers lost, unequivocally and irrevocably. There is no middle ground. Either you won, or you lost.

When you’re stuck in a series of near-hits, redefine life in black and white terms (binary) instead of shades of gray (analog). Analog has it’s place, but it’s a poor substitute for definiteness. You didn’t have a “near-hit,” you had a “complete miss.” You won’t hit till you do, and when you do, there will be no modifiers; it will be a “hit” and nothing else. Once you start thinking like this, you might give up entirely on some goals. It’s okay; that proves those goals weren’t important to you anyway. If you can survive many cycles of utter failure, then you know you are on the right path, because you have the strength to persevere through all hardships. “Near-hits” are just an illusion. They may try to waste your time and muddle your vision, but you shall triumph.

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