Being a Free Photographer

break away

I run into a lot of photography purists, but I don’t believe any of it myself. Photography is nothing but a series of manipulations. You’re manipulating the scene by composing it any differently than a non-photographer. You manipulate the appearance of the scene by zooming in or out. You manipulate your viewers’ outlooks by composing to exclude unsightly objects. Motion blur, shallow depth of field, under or over exposing… these are all creative manipulations on your part. You may not have as much creative control as with painting, but you can still be quite expressive. But creativity isn’t “pure.” If we can define any solid definition for “pure” photography, they’re going to be dull, boring snapshots that no one wants to look at. Don’t do pure photography. Anyone can do pure photography; it takes a real master to do impure photography.

The great thing is, when you embrace impure photography, a whole world of creativity opens to you. Pure photographers are constantly wasting time with ethical debates: is it okay to make the world look purplish in Photoshop, or only through the white balance setting in-camera? Can I crop my photos, or is that misrepresenting the scene? Can I add contrast to a scene that obviously needs it, or do I need to stick to my limiting philosophy? Impure photographers have no such shackles. The “code of ethics” is: do whatever is right to make the photo beautiful. No one cares if you change the white balance. Adding contrast is great. Brightening teeth? Spot-editing blemishes? Sure. It makes people look like they should. It isn’t a question of keeping the image true to the camera sensor; the goal is to produce an image true to the vision in your head. Creative photographs come from people, not computers.

Ironically, as an impure photographer, you’re always making the world look like it’s supposed to. Sunsets are supposed to be beautiful, bright, breath-taking, colorful. Raindrops are supposed to be frozen still, black and white, shiny, and contrasty. And darn it, flowers and people are supposed to be bright and animated with nicely blurred, defocused backgrounds. If you’ve ever debated F1.2 as impure for not showing the world like our eyes see it, you’re really steeped in the dogma. Let it go. You’re on to a grand world of free photography.

In truth, the only way to be a photographer is to be a free photographer. As a creative photographer, your task is to create an idealistic reality that is also a realistic ideal. If that means desaturating backgrounds on roses, removing specks of dirt, and burning in corners, then so be it. If it means adding a glow effect, filters, and sunrays to a sunset, it’s all good. Your tool is your camera, but your real power is your mind. It’s like painting, where you get to pick all the colors for the scene, but without all the heavy lifting. You can create so much more because there’s no need to build everything from scratch. You start out with a solid base (the world), and then you take away or alter the elements that need changing, be it by composition, post-processing, or any other method. As a photographer, you unlock your creative mind and become a more free person, because you’re set free from the grunt work of other artistic mediums and can instead work on the big picture. It’s like moving from assembly code to a high-level programming language.

As a free photographer, you will refuse to support film where digital surpasses it in quality and efficiency. There is no purism; hard work does not contribute to the creative value of a piece. It makes no difference if I took 100 shots of the falling droplets on my digital camera, picked the best, then edited out the ugly bits, rather than wasting 100 expensive frames of film and 15 prints in the darkroom getting my exposure and burning right. Even if I do that with the film, it’s not going to be as good, because I’m not good with film. If you’re not good with film, so what? Use digital then. It’s the wave of the future. The finished product is what counts. If it took you three days in the darkroom or thirty minutes in Photoshop, it makes no difference and each medium is as valid as the other, as long as what you do looks good. Your photos have to be inspiring, beautiful, challenging, creative, and fresh, all at once. That’s what counts.

If you’re in any sort of camera clubs or photography classes, your friends won’t like what I’m writing. They’ll spout some spiel about how photography is a time-honored and labor-intensive craft, and it must remain so. It’s not your job to change or influence the world; you’re just a recorder. If you edit your work, you are cheating your viewers. Your taking away from all the good photographers who put the work in (a.k.a. luck) and create one-tenth the beautiful images because of their fear-based orthodoxy. That’s what you’ll be told. Don’t listen to it. It’s not your friends who are talking. Their true thoughts have been stolen by the prevailing spirit of oppression and negativity. It is not your job to change them. Just go into the world pushing forward with your art, and if you are being a free photographer, other people will take note, because you’ll be producing fantastic work. And they’ll start switching over too. We can start a revolution.

A note on “camera clubs”: don’t join one. I’d never join a camera club. If I want to be with my people, I’ll join a photography club–not a camera club. Just like if I want to read, I’ll join a reading club, not a book club. It’s not so bad with book clubs, though. The unfortunate thing that happens with camera clubs, is that people get caught up in the science of photography and forget about the art. And even then, they’re not focusing on the science so much as their own notions: limit-based notions that keep them from pursuing their art form for want of some technical limitation. But there are no technical limitations. Sure, this is all relative. You can’t do much with a cheap disposable camera, and there are just things our cameras can’t capture, like huge ranges of light or certain shades of purple. But the difference between what our cameras can do, and what the camera club participants pretend they can do is quite vast. If you have a Canon PowerShot A590 or anything like it, you can do anything. Practically anything. In fact, by the time you get near the do anything level, you’ll be four cameras up. It won’t even matter. Start creating your best work now, not ten years from now.

I remember when I started getting serious about my creative photography in 2005, and all I had was a Fujifilm FinePix A360. And there were some things that I just could not take pictures of, or they were really hard to take pictures of. I could never get a good shot of lightning, despite numerous attempts, because I had no control over the ISO speed or shutter speed. With the cheap cameras, many things are automatic-only, like the settings on mine were. I wanted a good shot of falling raindrops, and after much perseverance, I got Raindrops. Unlike with my Canon Rebel XTi and fast lens, the only way to do it with the FinePix A360 was in the bright sunlight, so it had to be raining in the sunshine, but that happened because I kept watching. Then I had the necessary light to freeze the rain in motion.

You’ll run into all sorts of limitations like this in your photography. Perhaps you have the Canon Rebel XTi, and you’re finding the kit lens is too slow for indoor low-light portraits (I did). Or you’re filling up the burst buffer too quickly with your rapid shooting on the football field. The limitations can be anything, but the free photographer’s way is to embrace and work with them, at least till you can afford the expensive gear that attacks them directly. Learn how to be still to avoid camera shake with a bad lens, accept grainier photos with a higher light sensitivity setting, or just take three shots for every one so you’ll be bound to get one right. Switch from RAW to JPEG for quicker burst shooting, or buy a faster memory card to compensate (rather than a faster camera, which is much more expensive). Whatever you do, don’t give up saying that good photography is impossible with your current setup. That’s the coward’s way out.

Free photography, as much as it is about embracing all formats, methods, and editing as equal and valid, it is about not making excuses for anyone but yourself. If you miss the moment when the lightning struck the ground, don’t blame your camera, or your lens, or your lack of a college education. If you can’t produce a beautiful image because your source image needs work and that work isn’t permitted by your oppressive photography religion, don’t accept it as fate. Don’t blame anyone or anything else for shortcomings in your work. Have the courage to accept that anything you’ve failed to do or any photo opportunity you’ve missed is your own fault. The reason you can’t create beautiful photographs isn’t because you never see anything interesting. There are plenty of interesting things in your house, in your yard, and around your neighborhood. Or there are dull things which can become interesting when you shoot them in a new light or from a new angle. The “I never see anything / go anywhere interesting” excuse is your own way to excuse yourself from the guilt of not following your artistic passion. But you can stop it, right now. Instead of saying “there’s nothing interesting,” say “I don’t put enough effort in.” Once you rephrase your thoughts and words to put the keys in your hand, you’ll be on your way to putting more effort in, or making whatever change you need for your art form. It’s the first step. No more excuses.

I’ve used the “I never see anything interesting” excuse myself, once or twice. But if all I’ve written hasn’t appealed to you, I have one more piece of advice. Go somewhere interesting. It’s not that hard. Millions of other people do it every day. Go for a walk, visit the park, climb to the top of some high building. If you’re not seeing interesting subjects, it’s your responsibility to change that. It’s all part of being free and empowered, rather than a slave of fate.

Enjoy your life as a free photographer. You’ve just made a huge step above 99% of the other people in your field. I hope to be with you too.

I am no longer an employee

I was fired an hour ago. It took me this long to write this (I’m slow, you know).

If you’ve read my first post about this, you’ll know that I was in trouble for telling my boss she’s in the wrong career. And possibly for teasing her for five months, but she started that and it didn’t become a problem until after my nerve-striking statement, after which she was searching for problems to catch me on. That meets the definition of a red herring.

Bascially, I was fired for being honest rather than fake, by my boss’ supervisor over the phone. When you have a boss (even yourself) who wants attractive but evil fakeness rather than honesty, then that is the only thing that can happen if you refuse to compromise. The only thing.

Perhaps if I would’ve groveled a bit more at several key points along the way, or put up a wall of fake professionalism through the past three months of my job (i.e. not talking about anything deeper than the state of the morning coffee), then I could’ve clung on a lot longer. I also could’ve sucked it up and not asked to be transferred to the Ormond branch, and acted as if I wasn’t being held back.

Or maybe it was sharing Fear is Evil with my supervisor and old friends at Ormond. It was probably too jaded, yet truthful for them. Truth is a scary thing, for people who have sheltered themselves from it. There isn’t one truth, but many, and mine is one of them. I learned this from my year in QUANTA. Mine is a particularly frightening one to someone in the system.

Sharing that article was not a “smart” thing to do, from the standpoint of a normal person. What would the normal behavior be?

• 1. Offend your boss, not by something inherently offensive, but because there’s a shred of truth in it and she is scared.
• 2. Apologize profusely.
• 3. Promise it will never happen again.
• 4. Say it wasn’t true, you were just joking.
• 5. Say it wasn’t true, you were just angry.
• 6. Beg forgiveness.
• 7. Work extra hard and donate money to the library (or the equivalent for another workplace), to prove what a wonderful servant you are.
• 8. Not try to get transferred, because that’s asking too much.
• 9. Go up the chain of command and tell them how sorry you are too, because that’s what it’s going to take.
• 10. Be so wonderfully nice to everyone, you’re bound to be loved. But to everyone else, it’s obviously fake.

… and the list goes on. Do any of these sound like the behavior of a smart, passionate person? If this is the list you’d follow, it’s time to wake up.

In my younger days (12-15), I would’ve been more apt to handle this differently. I’d respond with a month of hatred toward my boss, plus three months of hatred toward the system, and then, because I was never weak enough to seek revenge, six months of apathy. Then I’d just try to forget all about it. But when we forget, it’s just avoidance. Fear. I’m sixteen now, and I hope I’m passed that. You have to face your fears if you’re ever going to grow anywhere. Being an employee isn’t so great after all. This is a blessing in disguise for me.

I’m not angry, I’ve moved above anger. Which is great, because anger drags you down. It’s a weight on your soul which pulls you down to the level of an animal. All I can feel is compassion, which is great because it means I’m moving forward and I’m not permitting negativity in my life.

The big problem, even bigger than being pushed to act fakely, is that since my new boss started (Jan. ’08), she took away everything I used to do. I was relegated to shelving and organizing the shelves (shelf reading), and not helping patrons check out items, or find stuff, or on the computer (unless it was something she couldn’t do), or issuing library cards to new faces in the library, or photographing story-time and other children’s events. In fact, she was bent on a strict code of professionalism in the workplace (no humanity). I used to give out print copies of my photos or articles to patrons and staff often, but she prohibited it, saying it was not my “job.” Funny thing is, it’s exactly my job, because all of our jobs in life involve each other. Not a grandiose title, or a book full of policies and rules. Normal people don’t need a man-made book of policies and rules.

So, where my goal in library services is service to others, I became unable to fulfill the mission by these new restrictions. And if I can’t do the mission, than each day is drudgery. I was dreading going to work today, before the news, because I didn’t want to go through another (half) day where my path was blocked. I’ve seen it in the library, because we get half the patrons than when Lisa was there (the upbeat librarian who was transferred out at the start of the year). The shelves and books are in beautiful shape, evenly spaced (one of my projects was to make their heights equal), and in perfect order. And it means nothing.

Either way, I made 59 cents on my website yesterday, far less than my $8/hour job. But at least this path has a heart.

So what am I going to do now? Besides my precalculus algebra class that I have eight days and two tests left in, I’m going to dedicate myself here. To my photography, and sharing it with the world, and building profits off of contextual advertising. The Volusia County Public Library system is no worse than any other, but that doesn’t mean it’s better either.

There’s a really funny thing here. When I spend twelve hours on the computer on days where I released my entire portfolio as stock imagery, or made dozens of comments on other blogs, it’s a smart and logical thing to do if I make it big (i.e. make money). If I fail miserably and make nothing, than no matter how driven and positive I am, I’m nuts. A megalomaniac, and quite a monomaniacal one. Perhaps I’m even delusional, for maintaining positivity where others would give up in despair. I might even have Attention Deficit Disorder. Whatever it is, there’s something horribly wrong with me, because I refuse to be “normal.”

It’s the same thing for gambling. If you play black-jack at Vegas for twelve hours a day, you only have a gambling “problem” if you’re losing money. If you’re the most brilliant card counter ever and are making money hand over fist, there is no gambling problem. The “problem” status is not dependent on the righteousness of the behavior, but its end results. A curious quirk. There must be a name for this concept. If not, I’ll make one up. But I’ve reached the end of my thoughts for now.

An ode to courage, and to living with it even when everyone else forsakes it. I know I try to.

Save What You Write

Whenever you write something, save it. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth keeping.

I’d been thinking of this as of late, so I created a page called My Comments. What do I put there? My comments, whenever I comment on a blog outside thripp.com. Why? Because I can’t trust I’ll ever see them again.

Don’t count on other people to preserve your work. This is all about independence. You may think you’ve just responded to some article with the greatest comment ever, but if the blog owner disagrees or just loves censorship, it’s one click of the delete button and your contribution is gone. Don’t you want to have what you write to refer to later? Then you can’t trust other people to hold the keys.

If you think this’ll never happen to you, or that it’s so rare that it doesn’t matter, then read The Profit Police and How They Kill Everyone. Even big and seemingly fair-minded communities will pull this on you, if you’ve violated one of their “policies.” It doesn’t matter if you’re adding a lot to the discussion. Good luck retrieving what you wrote (I was lucky my mini-articles were in Google’s cache).

I can promise that at thripp.com I don’t do this, but the same goes for any blogging community (WordPress.com, LiveJournal, whatever). Or social network, or email service, or anything you don’t control. Even my web host (Netfirms) says they can remove your site if it has “adult or illegal content.” But at least by being on my own domain, I can wrest control back from them, rather than building pagerank for deviantART, and then having to start all over when I feel limited by their services or am banned on a whim. I do backup my SQL database often, just in case.

If you trust the Google empire to your email, at least download Thunderbird and synchronize a copy on your hard drive through IMAP. I know I do. Gmail has lost email before. Who knows what could happen to yours?

This is just one step to claiming ownership of your life. When you give up your power, you give up your freedom, even if it’s in the name of convenience or safety. If you’re stuck renting an apartment, save up for a down payment on a house, even if you have to give up cable TV or air-conditioning or phone service. Don’t let the cycle continue. Be independent, take back your power.

Don’t Multitask

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

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

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

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

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

My New Plan

What I wrote about here was a no. Disappointing.

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

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

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

The Irrationality of Apportionment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Profit Police and How They Kill Everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I added to the goal, have a blog:

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

And, sharing my knowledge on playing the piano:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Concisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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