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!

Education Psychology Podcast Summaries

Below are five summaries of podcasts by Dr. Anita Woolfolk on Education Psychology I wrote today for a class I am taking in the same subject.

Podcast Summary 1 (3%): Podcast #1 – The Importance of Teachers

According to Ms. Anita, “Teacher involvement and caring is the most significant predictor of student engagement in school,” at all grade levels, because as Abraham Maslow noted, people need to belong and feel safe, so supportive teachers give higher self-esteem, more motivation, less chance of dropping out, and help facilitate a better understanding of the course materials, lifelong learning, and understanding, trust, and respect at all levels, even when having to discipline students for misbehavior, missed days, or not turning in assignments on time.

A study that followed students from 3rd grade through 5th grade found that the average mathematics achievement score from students who had the most effective teachers through all three grades was in the 96th percentile, which is to say it was in the top 4%. Students who had the least effective teachers through all three grades were in the 44th percentile, which is to say they were below 56% of the other students. Teachers are the most important influence on students in the classroom.

Podcast Summary 2 (3%): Podcast #3 – No Child Left Behind

According to Ms. Anita Woolfolk, while states have some say in defining standards for adequate yearly progress (AYP), test scores, and proficiency among students, all schools must reach proficiency at the end of each school year by 2014, because of the federal No Child Left Behind act. If a school fails to do this for several years in a row, severe sanctions will be taken against in it which may even involve it being shut down and all the students and teachers being sent elsewhere or laid off.

However, if American students improved in 4th grade math at the same rate they did from 1990 to 2000, it would take about 57 years for them to reach 100% proficiency, and for 12th grade math, it would take 166 years. Another problem is that the tests are starting to define the curriculum, and schools that are shut down often bring down the test scores of other schools when their students are transferred there. However, the NCLB act has positive results, such as encouraging more qualifications and knowledge for teachers and giving special attention to students who are struggling on standardized tests. For all teachers, it is important to teach for both knowledge and understanding.

Podcast Summary 3 (3%): Podcast #5 – Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is not just another word for punishment. Anything that causes a behavior to maintain or increase is a reinforcer. When a child keeps whining, we can assume there is a reinforcer that is encouraging that child to continue that behavior. Strictly speaking, there are two ways to encourage a behavior: adding something (positive), or taking something away (negative).

If you wear a shirt and get compliments, you may wear that shirt more often and the compliments are the positive reinforcer. Reading a textbook may have the positive of higher test scores. Conversely, when you put on your seatbelt and your car’s buzzer goes off, that is negative reinforcement, because you put on the belt to make something go away, be negated, and be removed. Getting sick is a behavior, and missing an unwanted class is a negative reinforcer.

You can decrease a behavior by adding something unpleasant, like running laps, or taking something pleasant away, like watching TV. Positive reinforcement is based on addition, and negative reinforcement is based on negation or removal.

Podcast Summary 4 (3%): Podcast #10 – Procrastination

Procrastination is putting off something you should be doing by an excuse such as “I’m tired” or “I’m too busy” or any other unreasonable reason. It is very prevalent among college students and can be characterized by students waiting until the last minute to do assignments. One study finds that some students spend up to one-third of the day (five hours) procrastinating, putting off school-work to watch TV, play games, surf the Internet, or text message.

Some students pretend they work better under pressure, and others worry about being perfect and never get started on assignments. Others enter a spiral of depression by not giving themselves enough time on an assignment because they put it off, resulting in poor performance. Ideas for avoiding procrastination include modeling, social persuasion, outlines, and chunking.

An example of chunking is working ten minutes solidly, then taking a two minute break, and then working ten minutes again results in fifty minutes of solid work at the end of an hour. This is a much better strategy than procrastinating thirty minutes and then performing thirty minutes of rushed work. The key is making a plan for projects you have been avoiding and then consistently following through, moment by moment and day by day, throughout your life.

Podcast Summary 5 (3%): Podcast #15 – The Brain and Education

New brain scan technologies have revealed that neurons of the brain send out branches that reach out to connect to other branches of the brain’s cells that get close to each other without touching, creating synapses through which impulses pass. Each brain contains trillions of synapses, because each neuron contains thousands of branches and there are billions of neurons in each brain.

Children have many more synapses then they’ll ever need, and many more than adults have. Unused synapses and neuron pathways die off, while those that fire over and over become more efficient and more easily accessed. “Cells that fire together wire together,” meaning the brain is physiologically changed by learning. One study found an area of the hippocampus in the brain is larger in taxi drivers who have driven longest. Another finds that musicians have an automatic response to sheet music in preparation for reading notes. Blind children use their visual centers for processing sounds, and deaf children use their hearing centers for processing visuals.

It is important to use different areas of the brain and different talents and interests so that if any of areas of your memory are blocked, you can still unlock your skills and memories with other cues. Teachers should use multi-sensory lessons including talking, audio, smart boards, drawing, writing, and visuals, if possible. This is called differentiated instruction.

Thoughts on the Psychology of Education

Below are five essays I wrote over the past few days for my Educational Psychology course at Daytona State College. All references to the textbook reference this book (PDF, 3MB, 365 pg.).

E-Journal 1 (4%): What is the role of educational psychology in understanding teaching and learning? How can we use research to understand and improve teaching?

Educational psychology is the study of how students learn and develop, so understanding it helps teachers adapt their lesson plans and teaching strategies to promote independent learning, cooperation, caring, collaboration, metacognition and psychological development, while demoting frustration, fears of helplessness, dependency, and apathy.

One example of a theory that may help with understanding learning is the chart on page 69 of our textbook (Golobuk & Fivush, 1994), which says that teachers often give praise to boys for correct knowledge and to girls for compliant behavior, overlook compliant behavior with incorrect knowledge in boys and misbehavior with correct knowledge in girls, and criticize misbehavior in boys and incorrect knowledge in girls. This means that teachers will often praise boys just for behaving, even when they are misinformed, whereas girls are praised for good behavior, with inappropriate behavior and the core lesson plan being overlooked. Knowing this, a new teacher or a veteran teacher can adapt his/her lesson plan to avoid such pitfalls, while being careful not to overcompensate in the opposite direction.

Research helps us to understand and improve teaching by giving us a deeper example of learning. For example, it has been shown that fluent bilingualism gives a definite cognitive advantage by allowing students to understand that languages assign words to objects or concepts which can be manipulated and changed (pg. 72). Therefore, teaching students English and Spanish or another language can help them write stories and essays with more depth and understand complex text materials more easily.

E-Journal 2 (4%): Describe, in detail, Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.

Kohlberg divides moral development into three categories with two stages each, giving six stages in all (table 3.5, pg. 53). In the pre-conventional category, the stage of obedience and punishment is characterized by the egocentric belief that actions that are rewarded and not punished are good, and that superior power defines superior morality. For example, taking a cookie is good if it triggers praise from adults and bad if it triggers criticism. The subsequent stage is “market exchange,” where the child begins to show a limited interest in the needs of others, but only to further his/her own interests by securing their continued assistance. This is often morally relative, and an adolescent or adult who stays at this level may find it okay to pay others to do his/her homework or provide sexual favors to receive special treatment (pg. 54).

At the conventional level, the third stage is often called the “ethics of peer opinion,” where the individual views his/her peers’ arbitrary social conventions as indicators of morality. This can be good if the individual’s peers are all upstanding, but if they settle on bad practices such as bullying, dereliction, or shoplifting, an individual at this stage of peer opinion will go along with it. The subsequent stage is the “ethics of law and order,” where the individual looks at the community as a whole for guidance. This is a step up, but still not ideal.

The post-conventional level is divided into the stages of the ethics of the social contract and the ethics of self-chosen, universal principles. The former places an emphasis on democracy, even when the majority decides to be unfair to a minority. The latter is based on personally held principles which the individual applies to him or herself and the community, which may or may not agree with peers, customs, the law, or even the social contract.

E-Journal 3 (4%): According to your text, what does “intelligence” mean? How is intelligence measured? What should teachers know about intelligence? Have you ever known someone “really smart”? What were they like? Was everything “easy” for them?

Classical definitions of intelligence have tended toward defining it as a singular, broad-spectrum ability which allows an individual to solve complex problems and perform academic tasks more easily depending on the level of intelligence the person has (pg. 64, Educational Psychology global text). This idea is supported by research, but teachers should also know about Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which proposes eight forms of intelligence that operate independently and explain why some people are gifted in one area and average in others. The eight intelligences are linguistic, musical, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist, and each person has a combination of each. While many researchers criticize the theory for relying on anecdotes (pg. 66), it is still a useful tool for debate.

Intelligence is difficult or impossible to directly measure, but may be approximated using assignments, observation, constructive learning, aptitude tests, and “intelligence quotient” tests. Teachers should know that some students are gifted in certain areas and disadvantaged in others, and exceptional student education should always be a priority, even if it requires individualized instruction for certain students.

When I was in my Physics class at Daytona State College in fall 2008, there was a student who was 16 years old, barely studied or did homework, and usually had an intuitive understanding of all the concepts which allowed him to ace the exams. While everything seemed easy for him, he would also obsess over calculus derivations which barely seemed of interest to me.

E-Journal 4 (4%): Discuss Token Reinforcement Programs that apply to the classroom.

Token reinforcement involves giving recognition to children who perform well on assignments and demonstrate good behavior, usually through stars on assignments and occasional pieces of candy. Tokens that are slightly delayed may prove more effective than instant gratification, but tokens that are given too late may become disconnected with the positive achievement they are intended to reward (O’Leary). However, reinforcement can be misdirected for the wrong strategies, and the most dangerous type is a “partial schedule of reinforcement,” where the student generalizes simplified behavior to more complex problems based on what he or she was rewarded for before.

An example of overgeneralizing is when a student adds multiple two-digit numbers together by adding the digits, i.e. 13 + 19 = 1+1 and 3+9 = 212 instead of 32, because token reinforcement has led the student to abandon common sense (Edu. Psych. global text, pg. 87). This approach works when none of the summed digits exceed 9, but when they are 10 or above, borrowing and carrying over is required. From a behaviorist point of view, this is an example of thinking everything is a nail because you have a hammer—the same technique is being used to solve different problems, sometimes correctly and sometimes wrong. A broken clock is right twice a day, but the human tendency to mentally construct order from chaos makes this proclivity frustrating and discouraging unless both the student and instructor work together with neither giving empty flattery or dismissing the other as unteachable. One way to stay on track is to introduce a neutral third party which cannot be blamed, i.e. a computerized graphical or graphing calculator.

E-Journal 5 (4%): Does anxiety promote or inhibit learning? Should anxiety be used as a stimulus for learning?

Anxiety can promote or inhibit learning depending on the student, teacher, and how it is applied. Just like a knife or a pencil, it is a tool that can be used and abused but remains philosophically neutral. Some teachers may apply it to promote fear in students of being held back a grade, or of social ostracism, not succeeding in life, not learning vital knowledge, or some other cause, just as other teachers or the same teachers may apply it to promote competition and learning in students who wouldn’t normally be motivated to study. Other teachers may not use anxiety at all, and many students will create their own anxiety about tests (Edu. Psych. global text, pg. 211), which will cause them to become flushed or in a state of mental anguish while taking a test, which may negatively or positively affect their performance (but usually negatively).

Additionally, many institutions and institutionalized practices, such as the Florida FCAT test, and the SAT and ACT college entrance exams, are set up as high-stakes tests which single-handedly shape students’ futures. While it may be better to have a greater number of low-stakes tests which do not alone determine whether a student will be held back a grade or not get scholarships or admission to college, it is more convenient for the bureaucracy to have fewer, all-encompassing high-stakes tests, since this simplifies management and allows students and schools to be fit into neat little boxes based on their test scores or test averages. For some students, it creates a great deal of anxiety, but for other students, it may be a powerful motivator to study and learn, and students who do well on high-stakes tests may enter a positive-feedback loop where they associate test-taking with success. Similarly, other students may do poorly and enter a negative spiral, associating education with failure.

Doing Nothing

I didn’t get anything done today. I was going to write an article about focal length on camera lenses, but I ended up spending five hours reading about it on dpreview.com, Wikipedia, this great explanation of f-stops, etc. It was interesting, and I learned quite a bit, but I still didn’t write anything. Writing about photography doesn’t feel like writing about personal development, because it seems like I can write whatever I want with the latter. With photography, I spend more time researching and worrying about technical details than writing. General ideas are more important. Really specific articles are beter than all-encompasing ones. That’s contradictory, but I’m sure it’s true. If you try to do everything at once, you’ll certainly fail. I can’t write an article called “The State of Digital Photography,” because there’s way too much to cover and I’ll never get started.

I was home with my parents and we had dinner together (sort of), which was nice. No turkeys were involved. I wonder how turkeys become food for us. It’s cruel and unusual. I ate a salad with lettuce, dark green vegetables of some type, cucumbers, black pepper, sea salt, and garlic dressing. It was delicious. Salad won’t nourish you much because your body can’t digest much of it, but it provides great vitamins, keeps your system clean, and tastes good.

I slept till 9 A.M. this morning. That messed me up. If you spend two hours getting out of bed and three hours reading nothing, then the rest of the day is shot. Being in college almost every day does build discipline. Having a job does too. You end up getting more done in the gaps between work than you would if you had all the time to yourself. Personal development is all about using your own time and resources efficiently, rather than relying on other people or businesses to schedule your life. To rely on yourself, you need discipline. When you have self-discipline, being bossed around by others is no less than silly.

Today, I learned how to play the song I composed for the piano on Monday. I’ll post it tomorrow. I’m going to spend a couple days with my grandmother starting tomorrow. She’s 102, so she needs my support. :silly:

I shipped out lots of packages from my eBay auctions yesterday, and more are going out tomorrow. A lot of stuff didn’t sell, and what did didn’t make too much, except for the Kodak ink cartridges and miniDV tapes which profitted me $50. Counting Craigslist, my total profit is at $150. Plus the $65 I made on ads on this site this month, and the stuff I sold earlier, I’m over $300, which is more than my old job.

I applied for a job at Office Depot. Dad and I go there so often to use the ink cartridge recycling coupons I mentioned in Selling Stuff, that I may as well work there. Working has a lot of perks, after all. Applications are really funny these days. There’s all these threats and psychological evaluation questions. I don’t take them seriously.

The best way to have a job is to not care at all about being fired or reprimanded. You can do that when you make money from other things or you have few bills to pay. Stay out of debt. Having a normal job can be fun for a time, especially if you have no fear. Then, you can do whatever’s best for yourself or the company rather than looking over your shoulder, limiting your dialogues with customers to two minutes, and memorizing details of policy. In fact, these are the people that do best in the workplace because they don’t take crap. They also do the worst and get in trouble, but it doesn’t matter. If you have a job which you cannot walk away from at a moment’s notice, you’re a slave. It doesn’t matter if it’s for your rent or your cable t.v. bill or your car. Being a slave is inescapable for a while, but you do want to constantly be working to get out of it. Taking Thanksgiving off is inexcusable. :grin:

Tomorrow I’m getting up at 5 A.M. and I’m going to take some cool photos and get stuff done, even if it kills me. I will not be participating in Black Friday. There was some guy camped out by the Daytona Beach Best Buy on Wednesday, tent and all, but I think he was just there to be a public spectacle.

Good night all. It’s okay to get nothing done once in a while. You can even get depressed about it if you want. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s therapeutic. :cool:

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.