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Leaving Florida

I’m leaving for California at the end of the week to spend three months with my mom in Union City. She will be taking the first week off, after which I will be working at Goodwill of San Francisco for a volunteer internship, which should involve transitioning them from the LAMP stack to Microsoft SharePoint for their intranet CMS. My mom also works there. I will also be taking a tour of Google’s campus.

My mom left in 1998, so I’ve lived with my Dad since then. This is a good time to visit her, since I’ve got nothing important going on in Florida. I will be getting to see my 10 year old sister for the first time since 2006.

I won’t be taking any computers, musical instruments, or many clothes, instead relying on buying stuff there and using my mom’s computer. I will take my camera, cell phone, and a portable hard drive for data storage, but I’m limiting myself to one carry-on bag so I don’t have to defend or wait for luggage. I have a four hour layover in Atlanta, so I’ll probably take a book to read. I’m taking a shuttle from Daytona Beach to Orlando, since it’s the same price as the gas for a round trip to Orlando. My mom has promised to buy me a piano, and I may have to buy a monochrome laser printer so I can print sheet music and whatever else I need.

This will be my first time traveling alone, flying on an airplane, and leaving the state, besides a funeral in NC in 2006. I will also be turning 20 on August 17 while in CA. This will be a very significant trip. I’m sure I’ll miss my family, home, and a few key friends in Florida, but I’ll have my cell phone to keep in touch, email, Facebook, blogging, etc. I will also be keeping busy, so the time might pass very quickly. I can’t say for sure until I get out there.

I’m debating which GPS to take, since my mom will let me use her car. I have a Magellan GPS unit I like, but the maps are from 2009 and it costs money to update the maps. My TomTom GPS has free unlimited map updates, but the directions are confusing and the user interface is terrible. I don’t like how the Magellan GPS does not go past 1798 Ridgewood Ave. in Holly Hill, even though that road goes up to higher street addresses. I guess that part of that road may have been in a different city a few years ago. I will probably take the Magellan GPS, and hopefully the roads will not have significantly changed in the bay area in the past two years.

If I like California, I could stay out there or go back later. According to the CA website, I can claim domicile after staying a total of 6 months within a 12 month period, so I would have to go back for another 3 months before May. Then I could go to college at UC Berkeley at the in-state rate, which is about 30 miles from Union City. Hopefully Daytona State College will grant my AA degree at the end of the month, at which point I could go to work on some sort of Bachelor’s degree. However, in FL I can continue receiving the BrightFutures scholarship. I’ve already used up 4 of the 7 years on the AA portion, but can continue receiving it if I work on my Bachelor’s degree here within the next three years, if I’ve read the rules correctly. New BrightFutures students have only 5 years to complete their degree, but I have 7 since I came in under the 2007 rules.

Since I will not have most of my possessions in CA, such as my desktop computer, violin, saxophone, cello, and Chihuahua, I will be relying more on my intellect and my ability to convince my mom to buy me stuff. I won’t be able to help my family with computer issues, nor will I be able to remotely access my computer, since we are having our Internet disconnected tomorrow. I switched from AT&T DSL (768Kb) to Brighthouse cable (10Mb) six months ago, but now they are trying to raise it from $29.99 to $50.00 per month, and their “lite” speed (7Mb) has also increased from $32.99 to $35.00. AT&T now says they only have dial-up in our location, since they are at-capacity for DSL subscribers. Normally, technology advances over time, but in Ormond Beach, FL, it moves backwards. I have to take our cable modem back tomorrow and will be downloading Netzero and/or Juno again for their 10 hours free dialup access per month, for the next few days before I leave. Hopefully they still offer that. I really don’t feel too much loyalty to Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, Volusia County, or Florida in general at this point.

Since there are thousands of gang members roaming the streets of Oakland, I will have to be very careful not to stay our at night, and to avoid wearing blue, red, or black T-shirts, since those are the major gang colors, according to my research. Since I will be in a strange environment, I will naturally be more careful than in my hometown, so I’m not too worried about all the things that could possibly go wrong.

One online project I would like to work on while in CA is getting my text, photos, and videos onto as many websites as possible. While I’ve previously written about the dangers of relying on community websites like Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, YouTube, and Etsy, I now realize it’s much easier to get people to visit you on these websites than a personal website, and these sites do offer hosting for your content and ideas, serving as a sort of online backup on foreign servers, free of charge, so long as the moderators of such services do not ban you or erase your submissions. When I share my photos, I always try to do so at the highest resolution possible. While some people post only thumbnails with watermarks to protect their intellectual property, I would prefer the peace-of-mind of knowing that even if my house, WiredTree’s datacenter, and all of my relatives’ houses burn down, my photos will still exist on some computers or in someone’s files somewhere. Proliferation is better than protectionism. I’m hoping to take a lot of photos of the Golden Gate bridge.

Rather than selling individual images, soliciting donations, or relying on passive income, it may be easier and more fun to offer freelance photography services. A widespread online presence facilitates this, since even though Facebook may take all my ad revenue, it can generate leads that are far more profitable. I photographed a wedding at the beginning of April, and enjoyed it a lot, taking 750 pictures of the wedding at Tavern in the Garden, the couple after the wedding, family and guests, and the reception in New Smyrna Beach. I enjoyed capturing others’ precious moments, and I edited over 300 of the photos for color and contrast, providing all of them on two DVD+Rs, including the 750 raw files (8GB total). While many photographers safeguard their photos to milk for future profit, I prefer to provide my clients with all the files, so they exist in multiple geographic locations and because I would want a photographer to do the same for me. If you don’t know your clients well, it’s a good idea to not give up any files until you get paid. Fortunately, most people don’t even know how to edit or process raw files, so you can use your editing skills as a selling point. I use FastStone Image Viewer to create JPEGs from the embedded preview images in my Canon Rebel’s .cr2 files, with some automated contrast enhancements. This way, I can give my clients a lot of JPEGs and have them tell me which ones they want edited. The bride and groom created a wedding photo book on Shutterfly and ordered it themselves, so I didn’t even have to print anything. Since most photographers charge a lot, you can always market yourself as someone who does not offer all the professional printing services, but charges less. It helps if you have a nice website with a lot of text and no Adobe Flash. :)

I’ve been posting a lot of videos of me playing piano and violin on my YouTube account, and I will take some more videos in California, while developing my musical skills. I’ve also been learning foreign languages with my pirated copy of Rosetta Stone, focusing on Hindi and Mandarin Chinese to start. I will continue working on this in California, and might take a microphone for the speech recognition parts. If I start learning foreign languages now, I will be much better at them at 29 than I would be at them if I never started. While my dad says it’s impossible to become fluent in a language if you don’t have people to speak with, and that it’s far harder to learn another language at 19 than it would be at 9 or from birth, I can’t change the past so I’m not going to dwell on it. I was never enthusiastic about Spanish in high school, and I refused to listen to my mom’s instructions in Mandarin at 3 years old, instead preferring English, but I’m hoping to become poly-lingual over the next few years. Since my mom is fluent in English and Mandarin, she should help me when I visit her. My step-mom knows Vietnamese and Pali, but I never picked either up.

I could decide there is no point in learning anything since I’m going to die anyway, or I could decide not to learn anything unless it generates measurable, purpose-driven results. More likely, I could make no progress due to a lack of love for learning, or because I keep practicing at the same level over and over again without advancing. It helps to have a computer program to direct your learning for you, since you can use it at anytime and it remembers where you left off. When I read my college textbooks, I would often find myself re-reading the same parts over and over, because when I came back after a break, I would forget where I left off previously. This could also indicate I was not interested in the material, since I’d probably remember it if I found it interesting. Years ago, I switched from piano to photography since photos were more easy to share online, I did not have a good understanding of sheet music or music theory, and I disliked how long it took to make progress in music. Now, I feel just the opposite, and I haven’t even been using my camera much since I’ve been working more on learning the Moonlight Sonata, basic pieces on the saxophone, the Granada Sherlock Holmes theme on the violin, and chords on the guitar. Unless you suffer massive brain damage, all your practice and experience contribute to your current skill level.

Anyway, I will leave off by saying I’ve been taking 5000 I.U. of vitamin D per day and I haven’t gotten a cold or flu in a few months. It could also be because I haven’t been around many people, but I think vitamin D is much more significant than vitamin C in preventing illness. Cod liver oil, B complex, niacin, and CoQ-10 are also good vitamins to take.

I am looking forward to California and the new friendships that await!

Religion

Nobody knows the time or the hour that Jesus will return to Earth, or even what form he will choose. It could be 4000 years from now, a million years from now, or it could be that he never even left. It could be that it’s incumbent upon us to change the world and change ourselves to prepare for his arrival. But one thing’s for sure — destroying the world will not get Jesus to return. Only embracing it will, but not in a physical way — in a mental way, for even a man who has looked upon a woman with lust has committed adultery in his heart.

I grew up not believing in any particular religion, but now I see that religion fulfills a critical need in peoples life — the belief in something permanent and unchanging outside themselves in an impermanent and changing physical world. Trying to tear down religion might be the right step at the level of fear, and ignoring religion might be the right step at the level of hope, but only embracing it is the right step at the level of love, tolerating it at the level of perfection, and loving it at the level of imperfection. As in the words of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, “to love him was to know him, and to know him was to love him.”

Therefore, it’s very important to first embrace religion, then reject it, and then recapitulate. Most people only go through this process once or twice in their lives, and if they go through it more than that they feel like a failure, when in fact they are much more successful at their human mission than people who never change mental states.

If you go through this process process too frequently, you might have a mental disease such as bipolar “disorder” or schizophrenia. If you don’t go through the process of recapitulation enough, you might suffer a midlife or even a quarter-life crisis. And if you go through it everyday, you might be a Beethoven, Tolstoy, or Einstein just waiting to emerge.

Hope is a level of consciousness lower than knowledge, but faith is a higher level than both combined. It takes courage to stay true when the whole world seems to be against you, because in truth, the whole world loves you, but this doesn’t mean you should embrace strangers, because the world commits itself to actions discordant with its beliefs. There are rights, and then there are privileges, but you can’t earn privileges — they must be given to you, and all privileges are the work of Satan, not Jesus.

Be careful in your worldly affairs, for nothing in this world can truly determine your fate in the afterlife besides your actions. Normally, your thoughts determine your actions, but in some people this isn’t true, so it may be best to just disregard bad thoughts instead of wasting time analyzing where they came from.

Low-Profile Living

Note: On January 19, 2017, my Google Voice number 510-936-2417 became a victim of Caller ID spoofing. A robo-caller or other scammer is placing calls from a different phone number but portraying their caller ID (callback) number as my number. Evidently, this is very easy for scammers to do and there is nothing I can do about it.

Basically, if you have a website with your name in the URL, you are not living a low-profile life. I should probably change my website from richardxthripp.thripp.com to something that isn’t my real legal name, but I have no intention of doing so. In this article I would just like to talk about the mindset and benefits of low-profile living.

When I talk about keeping a low profile, I’m not talking about having a fake I.D., not using Google, or shielding yourself from corporations or governments. I mean shielding yourself from ordinary people. I consider it perfectly normal to give out my Google Voice phone number to people I meet at work, college, events, or shopping, but many people restrict their phone number to close friends. While I use a fake last name on Facebook, I only started this recently and still list my real last name as an alternative so people can find me. Most chilling of all, my home address is still listed on all my domain registration records. I really need to get a P.O. box, but I don’t want to pay every year for it, and I don’t want to risk putting a fake address on my domains because that is technically grounds for domain seizure by the ICANN, Verisign, or GoDaddy.

However, many people don’t even share their home address or personal details with close friends or romantic partners. Some people don’t even have phone or email―you have to go to their house or write a letter to get in touch with them. Other people live in the wilderness, such as rural North Carolina, where they are mostly cut off from modern life. I’ve lived a stone’s throw from Daytona Beach all my life, so it’s difficult to imagine being thirty minutes from the nearest Walmart.

Though I didn’t list it in my resolutions, one of my resolutions for 2011 is to maintain a higher level of secrecy. This is mostly in regard to my website, Facebook, Twitter, acquaintances, and satellite friends, which I define as friends who are primarily my friends because they know at least one of my close friends well. For family and close friends, I am actually being more open. It’s just important to keep mutually unwanted friends out.

I thought of the phrase “mutually unwanted” because last month I tried to open a checking account at Bank of America and found I am on the ChexSystems blacklist for fraudulent activity. I looked it up, and several websites described it as being a list of “mutually unwanted customers” which is basically a cartel of banks that have banded together through this third-party, non-governmental company. This really sucks, because it means I can’t open a checking account at any bank that uses ChexSystems for the next five years. I don’t even know why I’m on the list―I haven’t had any overdrawn accounts or illegal activity, and I doubt anyone stole my identity since my credit score is fine and I haven’t lost any money from my accounts with other banks. I submitted an appeal both by phone and their website, and they said I would get a letter within 5 business days, but that was before Christmas and nothing has come yet.

You could say Bank of America, BB&T, and other banks are being low-profile by using ChexSystems. Instead of welcoming new customers with open arms, they use a shady background service that doesn’t even work right most of the time, and they put absolute faith in it. From one perspective, this is an abundance mindset―they are implying I don’t matter because there are plenty of other people who want to be their customers. It’s depressing, but they’re probably right. Unless you are very wealthy, famous, or both, you’re just a number to anyone but your family and closest friends. Even your medium-close friends will often turn out to be “fair weather” friends when you have trouble in life. They won’t be there to loan you money or bail you out of jail. They’ll just disappear.

Similarly, peripheral friends you share sensitive information with might screw you over. If you tell everyone you are burning garbage in your yard, an environmentalist ninny might squeal to the police. If zinc prices go up and you start melting down pennies, be careful because you could get five years prison if you keep a high profile. If you buy a car for $3000 but report to the DMV you paid $1000 to save on sales tax, don’t tell anyone you don’t know for real because they might work for the State. Being discreet is just common sense.

When you see stories about people going to jail for making Twitter updates about blowing up planes from their cell phones at the airport, realize that they are not Constitutional issues nor civil rights issues. They are stupidity issues. The Constitution is just four sheets of paper. It doesn’t mean a damn thing in 2011, just as it didn’t in 1865. No law or contract is worth anything more than the paper it’s printed on. All that matters is human behavior and human relationships, and this is why bookworms get in so much trouble. They have book smarts, not real smarts. They share too much information and they don’t know psychology. If you think paper can stop a bullet, you’re living in fantasy-land… unless it’s 100 cases of paper, which might be able to stop a bullet. :smile:

Last month, I started a campaign to remove my Google Voice number from every public website. My new Google Voice number is 510-936-2417, and I feel perfectly safe giving it out, because it always goes to voicemail. I still use the old 386 number, and it still goes directly to my parents’ landline, but I don’t want to share it even though I can block numbers, because I don’t want nutcases waking my step-mom up at 3am. While I know the old number is still in the Google cache, Web archive, and other places because it used to be on this website, I’m confident these will disappear eventually, except the web archive which will require special attention. I’ve already changed my 100+ domains to the new 510 number.

Note: On January 19, 2017, my Google Voice number 510-936-2417 became a victim of Caller ID spoofing. A robo-caller or other scammer is placing calls from a different phone number but portraying their caller ID (callback) number as my number. Evidently, this is very easy for scammers to do and there is nothing I can do about it.

In some ways, being low-profile lends an air of exclusivity to friendship with you. Only your close friends know sensitive information about you such as your address, home phone number, family, and workplace. These friends feel more valued and special because they know you have given them more trust than the general public. Furthermore, every deterrent increases your chances of attracting good friends who appreciate you for who you are rather than the public image you project. Then, you can be even more trusting with your inner circle, because they will value your privacy just as you do.

On Facebook, I am now using a baby picture as my photo. This means people who are not my friends only get to see a photo of me that is from 1992, so they don’t even know what I currently look like unless they visit this website or know me in person. Surprisingly, most of my close friends don’t even care about richardxthripp.com, nor have they visited it. It’s quite surprising how average college students don’t care about personal websites. All they do is text and Facebook. Even email is a burden.

When you raise your standards and stop sharing dangerous information with the world, stalking becomes a much smaller problem. Every day, women who display themselves in low-cut blouses, string bikinis, or sexual poses on MySpace or Facebook complain about “creepy people” stalking them, and handsome men complain about friend requests from strangers when they display themselves shirtless. A simple lesson in modesty solves these issues. You don’t have to exhibit yourself to the delight of perverts and stalkers, and if you do, it looks stupid and real people don’t want to be friends with you. It’s entirely possible to have a MySpace or Facebook displaying no photos of yourself, if all your friends know what you look like offline and you tell them not to post pictures of you.

Talking about your income sources, family, heritage, religion, political views, assets, tattoos, or relationships is also completely unnecessary. You can have intriguing and detailed conversations without revealing anything important about yourself. Instead of talking about sensitive topics, talk about your hobbies, your favorite movies, sports, current events, or what your friends are doing. When someone else shares something private about their life, you have no obligation to reciprocate. They probably don’t want to hear about your life anyway. Most people prefer talking about themselves. If you indulge them, not only will you be living more privately, but you will be establishing better friendships by listening without interrupting.

Finally, it is very important to respect the privacy of others and never gossip, even if other people encourage it. I’ve recently lost a close friend over this, and it has been a wake-up call for me to re-evaluate what kind of person I want to be. At the same time, I believe in second chances and always grant them if the other person is sincere, not just because I expect to be treated fairly in return, but because being forgiving is the right thing to do.

Thripp 2010 Postmortem

When I launched my 20-week Thripp 2010 project on 2010-08-15, I set goals that were way too lofty and I didn’t reach many of them. I did post 80 new photos on this site, 40 on Thripp.com, a few new piano compositions, and 55 comics, but my original goals were much higher. Also, my Alexa rank plummeted from 60K to 90K when I wanted to increase it to 40K. I don’t know why my traffic is declining so much, but I must assume it is because I haven’t been writing any hard-hitting articles. Also, I haven’t released a new version of Tweet This in over 2 months, though I am keeping up with all support requests. Next time, I will set my sights lower.

My three goals were:

1. Get 50,000 absolute unique visitors in total for the three sites (track with Google Analytics).
2. Earn $2000 in Google AdSense revenues (including other sites such as Th8.us).
3. Increase the Alexa ranking of Thripp.com to 40,000.

I met only the first two, and #2 won’t even be confirmed until Google pays me my final payment after having my original account banned for undisclosed policy violations. Fortunately, it wasn’t click fraud, so they let me make a new account, but the $570 Google owes me won’t be paid out until Feb. 10, if at all. Google is very good at holding grudges and cutting off communications. No one will answer my phone calls or emails.

Amazon.com owes me about $720 in affiliate commissions for Nov. and Dec. 2010, but they use a net-60 payment schedule so I won’t be paid for those months until Jan. 30 and Feb. 28, 2011, approximately. Provided the $1290 comes in, I beat $2000 easily, thanks to other advertising and some generous donations.

For #1, Google Analytics reports 77,613 “Absolute Unique Visitors” for the period from Aug. 16 – Dec. 31, 2010 on the richardxthripp.thripp.com domain ONLY. Counting my other domains and web properties, I got 100K visitors easily. This goal was a breeze.

For #3, my Alexa rank and traffic is way down now. Normally, I get 20K visitors a month, but in the past month I have only gotten 15K. I am going to work on Tweet This and get a new version out this month, which should prevent Thripp.com’s Alexa rank from falling above 100K. As I wrote in Consolidation, ComposersJourney.com and Iseeafish.com are going to be consolidated under the Thripp.com domain, though I have now decided they will be separate sites. My current plan is to move them to music.thripp.com and comic.thripp.com sometime in February. My URL shortener Th8.us actually has a higher Alexa rank at 82K now, but I will not be moving it under the Thripp.com umbrella because the whole point of a URL shortener is to have a very short domain. Thripp.com is 10 characters — Th8.us is only 6. I do feel quite lucky to have a one-syllable pronounceable root domain that is as short as google.com and shorter than facebook.com by 2 characters, and it has the added benefit of being my legal last name and the last name of at least 200 people in the U.K. and Australia.

On a personal note, my life has been very busy lately. I’ve had my driver’s license for 6 weeks now and have been going out at least 4 days a week, either to college, grocery shopping, the bank, running errands, and even a night club. I have been hired by Daytona State College to be a math, science, and English tutor at the Academic Support Center at building 500 for 11 hours a week starting Thursday, Jan. 20, so I am getting ready for that. I won a generous scholarship from the Dana Rodman Tiffany Scholarship Fund, and I am graduating with my A.A. in Elementary Education this semester and am laying the groundwork to go into Daytona State’s B.S. program in the same major, having fully committed to not pursuing a degree in Computer Science. I still love PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS, but I don’t have the patience for C++, Java, algorithms, theories, and all that jazz.

I have founded my own micronation called the Thripp Republic, and though it has no officers or citizens yet, I have my own currency of which I have given away 1385 one dollar bills so far, and I am fully capable of running this entire operation myself. The Thripp Dollar is worth only 1/5000 troy oz. silver, so $1385 THR is only $7.95 USD, seeing that the spot price of silver closed at $28.69 an ounce on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011. I think it will go up next week. I’m proud of my work on the Thripp Constitution and Thripp Bank.

While I spent the first half of 2010 depressed and not accomplishing anything, 2011 is going to be completely different. I’m not going to be working at a blazing pace, but I will be persistent and will likely achieve world fame by the end of the year. I am going to be leaving for China and California all summer (May – Aug.) and may go to Puerto Rico for spring break, so I’m not going to launch more projects until the fall. However, I will be working on photography and writing, and I will probably produce more output in the first four months of 2011 than I did in all of 2010.

I want to work on myself a lot this year, including my mind, body, and spirit. I have lost several key friends recently by violating their trust, and I must be careful and show more respect in the future. While I still consider myself a very public person, other people cherish a high degree of privacy and I must respect that. Similarly, large corporations such as Google, Facebook, and the U.S. government should do the same with their denizens, though they usually don’t care at all, unfortunately.

This week, my Dad turns 50. It’s quite a milestone, and I hope he doesn’t feel old. I have a nice card for him that my Grandma gave me to give him for his 49th birthday, but I forgot last year. The march of time never stops… sometimes I even feel old at 19.

I’m learning the viola. It’s not much different from the violin, but the finger spacing and strings are different, and the instrument is larger and deeper. I got a saxophone, but need to get someone to look at it because it sounds awful. I’ve had a cold for the past 10 days which is lingering in my chest, so wind instruments have been off-limits for over a week.

I am looking forward to what the universe brings me in 2011, though I know it won’t all be positive.

Creation vs. Promotion

Do you spend more time creating things or promoting things you’ve already created? Musicians who spend two years touring with the same album are clearly focused on promotion, whereas musicians who release four albums a year to little fanfare are focused on creation. Some authors have written thirty books but can’t get even one published, while others have one best-seller they spend all their time promoting.

Promotion gets your art out to more people―creation allows you to have art in the first place. You can spend all your time and money promoting other peoples creations―i.e. Google, Facebook, The Beatles, or Sony―or you can spend your resources promoting your own creations while enjoying the creations of others only as a customer. You can live life as a starving artist who toils into the night but never achieves recognition, or you can be a salesman who sells his paintings on everything from welcome mats to toilet seat covers. You can advertise yourself aggressively while creating very little, or you can create a lot but not advertise your creations. At one extreme, you can create works that are completely original―at the other, you can produce works that are completely derived from the creations of others. You can even choose to create and promote nothing at all, instead working at a menial job for most of your life. You may be contributing more value to the world as a worker than as an artist, because the world has too many wannabee artists already.

I am a photographer and writer, but I spend most of my time creating. Sure, I send out emails, tweets, and status updates about my new creations, but I don’t spend much time or money promoting myself. I don’t take clients or work for hire. I don’t even have a tangible product, besides a few framed photos and a whole lot of 4×6 snapshots. My main source of revenue is Google AdSense, and that only generates about $60 per month on this website. In light of this, I definitely need to spend more time on promotion and less time on creation. Though I have hundreds of pages, 21% of my visitors leave my website immediately after viewing one page. I rarely get more than 10 comments per week, and emails come once in a blue moon. However, I am confident I am a good photographer and could be famous if I worked tirelessly for many years at promoting myself.

If you focus on promotion, you appeal to casual fans while boring your loyal fans. If you advertise your ebook or products in every email or blog post, you attract people who don’t read most of your material, but you annoy people who read and re-read everything you write. Conversely, if you focus on creation, your loyal fans are happy but your casual fans feel overwhelmed. Often, they don’t even know where to start when picking up one of your creations, be it a book, magazine, newsletter, or website.

The key to unlocking your life’s dreams is in balancing not only creation and promotion, but your image as an advertiser and your image as a creative artist. If you do consulting to help people increase sales and web traffic, you should promote yourself as an advertiser to that demographic. If you sell original works to art enthusiasts, you should promote yourself as a counter-culture creative genius to that demographic. If you have to target two contrary demographics at once, you should balance your persona.

While it may sound like you have to promote your creations and create things for your promotion, in fact you can choose one and out-source the other. Basically, this is called “getting an agent” or “becoming an agent.” Singers, actors, writers, and even successful artists have agents to promote their work, negotiate contracts, and protect their interests. If you’re more interested in being the rock that supports someone else, you can become an agent. Then, you focus on promotion and let someone else do the creating. There is often more money in being an agent than in being an artist.

Google and Facebook are companies that focus heavily on promotion. While they create original algorithms and maintain vast networks to serve up content, the content is almost always created by others. Google spends most of its resources indexing and retrieving foreign web pages and emails. Google Adwords is all about advertising the creations of others and collecting a commission, be it 100% on search results or 32% on AdSense publishers. Facebook mines your personal information, habits, and secrets to sell them to advertisers. Both companies are agents focusing on promotion. An advertising agency is also a good example, but many agencies do original design for hire, which is more creative.

Companies that focus heavily on creation are largely partnerships or sole proprietorship. Any company larger than that invariably has secretaries, accountants, lawyers, and other officers who only perform “meta” tasks―tasks that are essential to keeping the company running, but are not its core mission. For example, shooting and editing photos, burning CDs, and printing are primary tasks in a photography studio―distributing the photos, scheduling appointments, finding new clients, and filing tax returns are secondary, “meta” tasks. Most companies have more employees working on secondary tasks than primary tasks, but they are paid less.

Whenever you have writer’s block, composer’s block, or whatever-block, you are in a great position to focus on promoting your old work. Conversely, you do not want to be interrupted by secondary tasks when creative inspiration strikes. For this reason, it is important to maintain flexibility in your schedule, rather than trying to divide creative tasks and promotional tasks into hourly blocks.

Creative artists are afraid of being judged as losers who never succeed in life. Promotional artists are afraid of being judged as “sell-outs” who value dollars over art. Many people want to be pursuing something creative such as photography, writing, drawing, music, psychology, or dancing, but instead choose to major in something “practical” like nursing or business administration. Other people enjoy accounting or secretaryship but worry about being forgotten in death. If you are in either group, you will not find happiness outside of a radical life change or black-swan event.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Behavior that is self-destructive in one context might not be self-destructive in another. For example, chopping off a leg is definitely self-destructive… but not if you’re suffering gangrene and will die otherwise.

Eating 10,000 calories a day is extremely self-destructive for a normal adult, as it will result in massive weight gain. If you’re an Olympic athlete, it may be just right.

If you’re so obsessed with golf that you’ve quit your job and abandoned your family, you’re self-destructive… unless you’re the next Tiger Woods.

If you have the wisdom to know the difference between positive action and self-destructive action, you will go far. Just because you are passionate about something does not mean it is positive. Plenty of people are obsessed with playing video games, watching sports, or gambling, but none of them have any commercial viability.

Society may consider behavior normal under some circumstances and self-destructive in others. Teen pregnancy is considered self-destructive, but having a child in your thirties is not. Boxing or stunt racing is destructive when done by amateurs, but a money-maker when performed by professionals.

Healthy self-esteem is a positive trait, but wild narcissistic arrogance is destructive.

Half the battle is avoiding self-destructive behavior: the other half is reading self-help articles. :wink:

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:

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.

Stop Observing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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