42 Answers to the Meaning of Life

Here are 42 answers to the *question* of the meaning of life.

1. To ascend the ladder of desire to see the beauty of the forms. (Plato)
2. To skillfully and willfully achieve happiness in accordance with excellence through virtue. (Aristotle)
3. To crush my enemies, to see them flee before me in a field of battle and to hear the lamentations. (Conan, the Barbarian)
4. The meaning of life? That’s simple. Try to be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope to fall in love. (Mallory Keaton, Family Ties)
5. You take the red pill… (The Matrix)
6. There are finite games and there are infinite games. Life is an infinite game. (James P. Carse)
7. In Tao the only motion is returning.
The only useful quality, weakness.
For though all creatures under heaven are the products of Being,
Being itself is the product of Not-being. ” Tao te Ching (chap. 40, tr. Waley)
8. There is suffering.
Desire is the source of suffering.
It is within my power to remove suffering.
The removal of suffering is the cessation of desire. (4 Truths of Buddhism)
9. Be fruitful and multiply. (Book of Genesis)
10. Just do it. (Nike)
11. You have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy. (Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter)
12. The greatest good for the greatest number. (Utilitarianism)
13. Survival of the fittest. (Social Darwinism)
14. History moving towards the communism of workers. (Marx)
15. All are created equal and have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (US Declaration of Independence)
16. To end not just that fight, but all future fights with the bully… (Ender’s Game)
17. You shall love. (Jesus)
18. I don’t think we’re for anything. We’re just the products of evolution. (James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA)
19. To achieve singularity. (Vernor Vinge)
20. To return to nature. (Neo-transcendentalism, The Cynicism of Diogenes, Landscape photographers like the author of this piece.)
21. To pursue pleasure. (Epicureans, hedonists)

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22. To endure. (Stoicism)
23. Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. (Kant’s Categorical Imperative)
24. Free at last… (Martin Luther King)
25. Nature wanted to see so badly that the very first eyes were light sensitive crystals and minerals. Why did nature want to see so badly? (Questions asked at CIIS)
26. To care for and look after nature. (Naturalistic Pantheism)
27. Keep my commandments. (The God of the Old Testament)
28. Be obedient (to Allah). (Qur’an 51:56)
29. The Lord dwells in every heart, and every heart has its own way to reach Him. (Sikhism)
30. Money
31. Optimism
32. Pessimism
33. Sex
34. Therapy
35. Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. (Monty Python)
36. The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo. (Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook)
37. One always returns to one’s first love. (D.H. Lawrence)
38. Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg)
39. Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch. (Eric S. Raymund)
40. The laws of nature are much like the laws of man. (Ulbricht, founder of Silk Road)
41. We shouldn’t delay forever until every possible feature is done. There’s always going to be one more thing to do. (Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin)
42. 42, the answer to the question of the meaning of life. But what is the answer? 7 x 5. But 7 x 5 is 35, right? Yes, I guess there is something fundamentally wrong with the universe. (Douglas Adams, Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

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Traveling Light

I’ve been using my Langly Alpha-Pro bag to travel light. They say that the top compartment is good for a day hike. This is true, but I found a way to make it a great 3 day weekend bag, or for an extended week trip where you’re okay with limited clothing options.

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Part of traveling light has involved using clothes that dry in 4 to 8 hours.

My clothing packed into my top compartment consists of:

Not packed into my bag but what I’m already wearing is

  • shoes,
  • jeans,
  • socks,
  • undies,
  • shirt and
  • jacket.

This is ideal for traveling in places that are 50 degrees Fahrenheit and up.

For winter, I just layer on a winter jacket with inner and outer shell, gloves, long underwear, and substitute boots for shoes, but this is a pain to travel with.

I bring two 35mm film canisters worth of laundry detergent for a week and pack them in two ziplock bags.

I wash one pair of underwear each night, and the shirt and smart wool socks after 3 uses.

To dry them, I ring them out, wrap them in a hotel towel and stomp out the moisture. I then hang them wherever it is convenient.

The briefs can dry in 4 hours when it is dry and warm. The socks and shirt take 8 hours but you might have to attach them to the outside of a backpack if it is humid or not that warm out.

For the jacket and jeans, I’ve just relied on Febreeze to deodorize them. I’ve been looking into quick dry jackets and pants, but haven’t researched that yet.

With the clothing setup above you will be able to do a week of travel. You might be able to stretch it out to two weeks if you can find a laundrymat to take of the jeans and jacket.

I hope this helps.

How do you travel light?

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World Wide Instameet 10 in Berkeley

On Sunday I went to one of the World Wide Instameets happening at Berkeley. The hosts were Cory Maryott (Cal class of 2014), and Instagram denizen, Milkstachio. I personally brought some dahlias and sunflowers as part of a hashtag project I’m working on. More on that later. I felt the photo walk was well-timed for catching the sunset and getting dinner later. Also, there were some spots with great light that were part of the walk.

Cory Maryott

The co-host volunteered to pose for my hashtag project, #dudesholdingflowers. But honestly, everybody gets flowers. See below.

Danielle McGuiness

I asked Danielle McGuinness to pretend to have a conversation with the flower.

Queena Li

The refection of the flower in Queena Li’s shades was too hard to resist.

Adventures on a Ledge

Some adventurous folk went out on a ledge.

For dinner, the group with to Pieology, a pizza place that only makes personal sized 10″ pizzas made to order. The conversations that interested me were from a guy who shoots great landscapes that recently moved here or one of the pro-photographers that showed up. “Can I be your second shooter (for a wedding)?” “How do you get a social media job?” “Where’s a good place to shoot in SF?” or questions about the iPhone 6 were bandied about.

After dinner, the group split up. Most of us went to Berkeley BART. One of the younger guys was eagerly taking street photos on the lamp-lit street of Telegraph Avenue. Of that, someone said, “That’s a real photographer.”

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How To Do A Free For All

I’m two years too late on doing a free for all on Instagram.

A free for all is when you give out for free a set of photos. By free, I mean without copyright using perhaps at most an attribution license.

Here are the steps:

1) Create an image announcing the Free For All. Make sure the age has the hashtag of your event on it.

2) Recruit Ambassadors to promote your free for all using the image you created in step 1. Be sure to give them copy that states where they can find the free images, and that they need to use the hashtag to participate.

3) Be sure the ambassadors have a clear post date, start date & end date for the free for all.

4) Put your free images publicly linked and accessible on Dropbox or a similar service.

5) Announce the free for all along with your ambassadors.

6) During the free for try to give a shout out each day to edits you liked from your collection of free photos.

7) At the end choose a winner and runners up if you want.

I really messed up on recruiting ambassadors for my free for all. If I had gotten 20 ambassadors I would’ve gotten more followers. I had only a handful and so ended up with 134 new followers in a week when I usually only get 10.

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Lightroom Workflow

This is my Lightroom Workflow for making photos for use on any social media.

I will show you a before and after that I use primarily for landscape photos.

First, I export out the RAW files from something like iPhoto into a folder.

I drag the contents of this photo onto the Lightroom icon or open up the folder in Lightroom. I then select the photos I want to import. Then, I select a photo to edit.

I will start out with this photo.

1_before

Next I do the following:

  • click on “Enable Profile Corrections”,
  • adjust white balance (This can really make or break a RAW photo but won’t do much in JPG),
  • adjust contrast and exposure,
  • adjust the tone curve, and
  • adjust the sharpenss.

The first and last step are key. When you take a photo with a DSLR, the photos are not sharp but softly diffuse in RAW format. Without post-processing you cannot get the same kind of sharpness that you might from a film camera with the same setup as your digital camera. Here is a before and after showing just how important the sharpening step is.

1_without_sharpening

2_with_sharpening

Enabling the profile corrections will adjust any distortion that your lens causes, e.g. a curved instead of a straight horizon. In the past this was a painstaking process to fix that might take hours. Now you can fix it with the click of a button.

Here is the final image.

2_after

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I Lost at Instagram

I lost at Instagram in all the ways possible when you think of social media.

Let me first say that I had real friends before the Internet and before cell phones. We hung out almost *everyday*. To me that was / is real friendship. When did having a light capturing device become a pre-requisite for friendship? It is now. You also need to have a cell phone to have friends in the 21st century. Doesn’t this strike anybody as totally wrong? Am I the only one?

When Instagram first launched, I thought it was the best thing ever. It was the app that Flickr should’ve made. It boggles me that you can have 5000 people at a company doing nothing. Facebook is like that now and Instagram is headed there, too. When I heard Kevin Systrom and Josh Riedel were headed to a bar in downtown LA to meet LA users, I jumped at that chance. I remember talking to them about startups and the potential for a big startup in LA. I told them I was the lead developer at an app company. There were two ladies that they were more interested in talking to so I don’t blame them. This is how I first lost. I knew the potential of the app, and I failed to connect in anyway meaningful with these innovators.

A few months later, I had a chance to apply at Instagram and be employee number 7 or 8. Some douchebag recruiter from Twitter who was now working at Instagram never gave me a chance. This pissed me off to no end. I ended up working on an app called Via.Me. It ended up being the number 2 uploading app, so I definitely had the chops to do the work there. This is the second way I lost at Instagram.

The biggest and most painful way I lost at Instagram is like the 50 or so actors and actresses that never got an Oscar but should have. Yes, Gary Oldman, I’m looking at you. You totally deserved one in so many films. I never became a suggested user, and never will. When I found out that it was a word of mouth thing where suggested users could suggest other users, I thought I had a chance. In fact 3 friends asked that I be suggested, but this never panned out. I’M SO FUCKING SORRY I NEVER WENT TO STANFORD YOU DOUCHEBAGS THAT MANAGE “COMMUNITY.” I remember the first time I met Sam Graves. I gave him a ride to a meet up in Tennessee Valley. A photographer I knew was talking about needing a second for a photo shoot while I was walking with her. The moment Sam heard this he literally pushed me out of the way so that he could try and take this job from me. Sam Graves is the biggest douche bag ever and is destroying photography. He makes photographers think that if you do social media well, that is doing photography. He has turned Instagram into a Hollywood club populated by sycophants and whores. He also buys followers, too.

Yet, this guy, a total douchebag, beat me, and became a suggested loser. I played it on the straight and narrow and utterly failed to touch the heart of anybody at Instagram with my personality or art.

Where do I go from here? I can only continue to push myself further and harder. Although, I totally despair of getting the recognition I yearn for, I think I can learn to be my own ultimate source of validation. Like the old prophets of Israel, I will renew myself in the wilderness. This is a wilderness where folks with 20k followers on Instagram don’t want anything to do with you anymore even though you used to be “friends.” This is a wilderness where you are no longer competing with other Instagrammers but with the great photographers and artists of the past. Compared to Ansel Adams, I am a loser and am okay with that.

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Who To Follow on Instagram

Don’t follow anybody in the top 100 if you want a follow back. This elite group with at least 2.2 million followers only follows back an average of 222. That means your odds of getting a follow back are less than one-thousandth of a percent.

Also, don’t follow anybody who recently became a suggested user. In typical “nouveau riche” fashion, most start unfollowing people once they’ve reached this coveted status. On average, they follow less than 500 and unfollow 2/3rds of their followers before their suggested user status.

Honestly, just follow people whose photos you really like and who engage with you back. Yes, both. You can already “follow” people whose photos you like in galleries and in books without the engagement, but Instagram is all about engagement.

My pal, @combustionchamber, asked me who to follow on Instagram. Here are three folks that aren’t IRL friends but whom I’ve admired from afar that I’d like to suggest. Here are folks on Instagram whose art I like but also have a high degree engagement.

Larry Nienkark, landscape photographer: This guy even gives discounts to his superb prints in the comments.

Melody Riffs, singer: She is singing 1000 songs for 1000 strangers. One of them might be you.

Ac Colvin, night-time and fashion photography: Ac really reaches out and chats with his audience. I really like his night time shots around San Francisco, especially the long exposure ones.

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Should You Unfollow on Instagram

The short answer is no. Do not unfollow anybody you are following on Instagram because it will reduce your follower count.

If you look at this historical chart from IconoSquare, you can see that anytime I did a mass unfollow of “Followings who don’t follow back,” there was a huge unfollowing back of those who followed me or those I had reciprocal follows with.

follow_chart

The key take away is that you should be really careful about who you follow. If you do unfollow a large group of people, 25 or more, there is a ripple effect to people that are your reciprocal followers!

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Finding Photographic Inspiration from Tree of Life

Terence Malick’s “Tree of Life” is one of the few films that dares to answer the question, “Why?” Kubrick’s 2001 also made such an attempt but it didn’t quite have as clear of an answer in the way that “Tree of Life” does.

Malick carved his vision for “Tree of Life” well before Instagram launched, so when I look at his film, as someone who came to Instagram first, I can’t help but notice how much it all looks like Instagram in its early days.

Here are some inspiring images from that movie.

canyon

stainglassspiral

sunflowers

trees

rain

saltflats

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Instagram Celebrity

When I was living in Venice, California, a really good friend gave me some great advice. “Stay away from the film industry and you’ll stay sane.” I followed his advice, and I still have very positive memories of Southern California. Unfortunately, for my sanity, celebrity has come to Instagram. A gossip and celebrity magazine, Enstarz, has declared that Dan Bilzerian is an Instagram celebrity. This should be no surprise to anybody that has followed Youtube or Vine which have produced their own celebrities. In fact if you are a top 40 Youtuber, you make at least $1 million (USD) per year.

The film industry is pretty brutal for its stories of backstabbing and allegiance to the bottom line at the expense of art.

Hollywood and everything bad about it has come to Instagram. The more money that brands pump into Instagram marketing will only make this more true. Instagram has rooftoppers – one died from a fall – and selfies at Auschwitz as a trend. The only thing missing is an annual awards ceremony replete with red carpet and paparazzi.

Most actors in Hollywood only make $5,000 per year, and have a second job. Most photographers are doing a bit better at $28,490 per year. But at the upper tier, the rewards are very great. This is why competition is so fierce. Competition is so fierce that editors at influential fashion magazines have to compete for Instagram likes.

Can you have community when everybody is dead set on a Hollywood kind of success? It’s really tough. I won’t say no since I did make one friend in Hollywood. However, people move to Los Angeles for the weather and to be famous, not for the community. You could say the same is true of Instagram with its popular sunset hashtag and stories of overnight fame. In fact, a brand paid $5,000 for a photo to be published on Instagram.

The problem with chasing fame is the same thing as the problem with chasing money. No matter how much you chase, you need more. It’s really hard to be happy with what you have. For my sanity, and for yours, too, dear reader, I totally recommend staying away from the trappings of celebrity.

Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Shoot film – shooting film slows you down. You have to be more careful about your shots. There are no redos.
  • Give yourself a photo assignment. Instead of focusing on getting more likes and follows, shoot a series of photos as part of a photo assignment. I really liked the book and movie versions of Solaris, so I shot a series of black & white photos with the hashtag, #solarisbw.
  • Take a break from social media. This is tough, but you actually find that at least some people missed you.
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