Thom on October 24th, 2016

Trigger Warning: Discussions on applied Christianity

I’ve heard this idea before, but Tiffany Webster puts it in a new way that penetrated the clutter I’ve been building up around my soul lately. Well worth watching. (Or, if you prefer this in written form, go here.)


Thom on October 19th, 2016







My state encourages mail-in balloting. Boom! I’m done. There’s nothing that could possibly come out of tonight’s debate that would change my mind, so I’ve voted already. But there was one important thing I noticed when filling out my ballot: It didn’t end after “Choose one for President of the United States”.

There are other races on the ballot. There are ballot issues to be considered, and some require some homework to really get the full story. Voting is work, my friends! I’m not here to tell you “You HAVE to vote!” Voting is a right, and a civic duty, but it’s also protected speech, and that includes the right to say nothing at all, should you so desire. And while I’ve had people tell me recently that voting third-party is immoral, I’d have to say if any aspect of voting were immoral it would be uninformed voting. But, quite frankly, uninformed voting is also a right.

But become informed anyway, especially on the “down-ballot”. That’s where the rubber really meets the road. The presidential race has sucked all the air out of the political room, but the city, county, and state races likely impact your lives more directly than the presidential does.

For example there’s a bond issue on my local ballot. The county wants a bunch of money to do maintenance on existing parks and facilities and to build new ones. The information they presented listed the expected cost per household per year, but they were missing some very important information, such as why they need to issue bonds to maintain existing facilities and why, if they can’t afford that maintenance in the current budget, are they wanting to add new facilities that will increase the county maintenance costs. And many of these officials were boasting at party caucuses earlier this year that they’d caught the county mayor trying to increase the county budget for maintenance of parks. Something weird is going on, and by weird I probably mean “fishy”.

I’m not against increasing taxes for things that are important to me, but if I’d just come along through the ballot and hurriedly made up my mind I might not have caught what was really going on. I might have seen the bait, but not the hook. Take time to learn what’s on the ballot before you go to vote. The ballot box is no time to learn what you’re being asked to vote on. In that regard uniformed voting is the same as not voting–you have no business complaining about the outcome. (Not that that’s ever stopped anyone…)

But if you’re going to vote, and you like to be informed when you vote, don’t ignore the down-ballot. Take some time to know who or what you’re voting for. And don’t let the names at the top of the ballot keep you from voting on stuff that hits you where you live.

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Thom on October 18th, 2016

…and good viewing. Derek Hough of “Dancing With the Stars” and “Footloose” fame helped Lindsey Stirling with a music video recently. Looks like she returned the favor. This appears to be Mr. Hough’s first video effort on YouTube, too, which makes me wonder if, while shooting her music video, he and Lindsey didn’t also talk a lot about the music video business. Hey, why not? This video had good energy and good dancing. I’ll watch his next one, too, with or without Lindsey, and see what I think.

Thom on October 14th, 2016

The freeway I usually take to work has been under construction for the past half a year or so. When I found out it was coming I was dismayed. There are two main freeways that take you north in Salt Lake City, and both get pretty darn crowded. Having one shut down for long periods of time was going to make getting home next to impossible.

That hasn’t happened. Some near-genius planners have managed to keep most of the lanes open during peak hours, and some hard-working crews have been building road, ramps, and bridges in record time. For the most part my commute is only taking about ten minutes longer than usual. Well done, guys!

This could all change come winter, of course. Add a little snow and ice, coupled with serious lane re-directions at significant speed, and this could be a recipe for total nastiness. I hope not. But it’s a eighteen month project, so it’s inevitable we’ll be facing some terrible weather at some point, and that can shut down the freeways regardless of construction.

But for now I have to give a big shout-out to all the people responsible for the I-215 renovations. Good job, guys! You’ve managed to make what could have been a bad situation and made it only mildly inconvenient. I’m impressed and grateful!

Angel Bennett liked this post
Thom on October 13th, 2016

Here’s a group of boys that won in the much more important game. The idea had to start somewhere, and whomever started it changed a lot of lives for the better.

Thom on October 12th, 2016

Trigger warning: I discuss politics here, though mostly on a high level, and without naming names.

Popular wisdom is that voting third-party in an election is wasting your vote. I’ve decided that even if that’s true, which it’s not, I don’t care any more. When the first- and second-party options are so horrible, the only hope is to try to change the system, and that requires refusing to play by “the rules.” Remember, political parties have failed before. That’s why your choices today aren’t between the Whig party and the Democratic-Republican party (yes, I know the two parties didn’t even exist at the same time).

Can you imagine if Coke and Pepsi tried to convince you all that they’re the only two drinks that matter and that buying anything else is wasting your money? Or McDonalds and Burger King?

As for wasting your vote, I’ve been wasting my vote for years. Living in Idaho and Utah, it’s almost guaranteed that my vote will make no difference in the outcome. And really when you think about it, in any election, once a candidate has the 50%+1th vote, any votes beyond that are technically wasted. Seriously, how are any of the winner’s excess votes any less wasted than any third-party votes, or votes for the losing main-party candidate? The only votes that really matter were the votes that put the winning candidate over the top.

I know, presidential elections are more complicated than that. But let’s face it. All the polls tell us the main-party candidates this time around are the least popular candidates of all time. If there was ever a time for third-party candidates to steal the show, now is the time. They don’t have to win. They just have to do well enough to keep the main two from winning. Heck, they just have to do well enough to get the main two parties to take notice.

But even if there was no chance that voting third-party would ever change anything, I would still vote third-party this election. There is simply no main-party candidate I can feel good about voting for. Neither of them are good people. I see social media wars being waged trying to prove which candidate is less reprehensible, and that strikes me as wrong. We should be looking for someone we can feel good about, and if that person is not even on the ballot that doesn’t mean we should give in and vote for horrible people.

Of course that means that horrible people are going to win. Unless enough of us decide we’ve had enough and start voting for good people, neither party will ever feel a need to put forward a good person as a candidate. But so long as we continue to play the game by the main-parties’ rules, they will keep winning and we’ll keep getting horrible candidates. As long as they can keep talking us into a “lesser-of-two-evils” mentality in choosing our officials they’ll have no impetus to change.

And why do they deserve our votes, exactly? They continually fail to present good candidates. We shouldn’t continue to reward them with a “I-dislike-the-other-guy-more” vote.

I’m not going to tell you who I intend to vote for. If you really care to know, contact me privately. But if you really find yourself having difficulty voting for either of these two reprehensible beings on the verge of becoming the most powerful person in the world, I urge you to consider not playing by their rules any more. Vote third party. If enough do it, we can make a difference. And really, can any of the main parties say anything differently? If enough people didn’t vote for them, their candidate would lose. And often that’s what happens.

I would like very much to see 2016 be the year the third-party candidates’ collective votes were higher than either one of the main-party candidates. That would send a major wake-up call to both parties, even if one of them still won. It could happen. And if everything I read from people on my social media feeds is true, there are a lot of us who would like to see it happen. So…let’s do it.

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Thom on October 7th, 2016

Because it’s Friday, here’s some slow-motion underwater explosions. You’re welcome.

Thom on October 5th, 2016

And they’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Thom on October 4th, 2016

Continuing my series of “Why Should Anyone Care What I Think?”, I thought I’d weigh in on Colin Kaepernick.

He’s free to say what he wants. He’s free to protest peacefully however he wants.

The team that hired him is free to support or criticize or fire him over his protesting while wearing their jersey and thus representing the team.

The supporters of that team are free to voice, increase, or withdraw that support in response to that team’s decisions concerning Kaepernick’s choice of speech-while-in-jersey.

Everyone is free to think what they want about the whole thing. They are free to flood Facebook with oversimplifying meme pics trying to equate this with…well whatever they want, regardless of how intelligent of foolish.

Colin Kaepernick is also free to claim that Hillary is a racist, even if that makes some of his previous supporters abandon him.

Donald Trump is free to suggest Kaepernick leave the country if he doesn’t like it here.

Colin Kaepernick is free to suggest Donald Trump leave the country if he doesn’t like Kaepernick. (He hasn’t said this, to my knowledge.)

Notice a trend yet? There’s this thing called Freedom of Speech, and within certain specific limitations, it means everyone is free to say what they want, no matter what others think about it.

The people of Charlotte and San Diego are free to protest. They are not free to threaten and endanger lives, destroy property or riot.

When protesters do threaten and endanger lives, we are all free to speak against them–and police are free to arrest them for any laws they break. Anyone they threaten or endanger has a right to defend themselves.

University professors, tweeting on their own accounts on their own time, are free to speak against unlawful protest and the rights of victims to defend themselves. And people are free to get upset about it if they feel the professor’s remarks are inappropriate. He is free to apologize and attempt to clarify his remarks–or not to do so. The university that employs him is free to investigate the incident and determine if there is any cause for action. It’s even better when the law department for which that professor works finds that his remarks were indeed protected by the First Amendment. They are free to be alarmed by those remarks, even while protecting them, and are free to say so.

In every case above everyone is acting within their rights. The First Amendment continues to work–at least in these cases mentioned. And you are free to disagree with that, and voice your opinion as you see fit. You are even free to call me an idiot. And I’m free to agree with you, or even beat you to it.

We now return you to your life. Really folks, nothing to see here. Situation as it should be. Continue with your lives. Or change. That’s also entirely up to you.

Thom on October 3rd, 2016

**I’m speaking about religious experiences again. If this bothers you, tune in tomorrow for some nice, safe political discussion instead. 😉 **

Every six months, the first weekends of April and October, our church has a general conference for all members around the world. This isn’t exactly easy, considering we’ve over 15 million members in nearly every country in the world. As many as can are invited to watch live as the five separate sessions are beamed by satellite around the globe. Others will watch it online sometime after the fact, and still more will receive the transcript of all the addresses in a magazine sent out the following month.

Each conference is a series of talks, music and prayers. Speakers are selected by the First Presidency, the governing body of the church, but not assigned any particular topic. Each speaker prayerfully selects a topic and then prepares their remarks around what they feel we all need to hear. The intent is to help us all deepen our devotion to Christ, learn to be better disciples, and generally encourage us to keep going in an increasingly hostile world.

I look forward to these conferences almost as much as Christmas. Receiving encouragement and instruction from the leaders of the church gives me a tremendous boost. We are also encouraged to prayerfully consider some questions prior to the conference and then look for answers to those questions in the 30+ talks that will be given. I decided to try it this time, and the results were interesting.

One thing I need to explain first is that our church believes in continuing revelation. We have a prophet and apostles who receive revelation for the church, but we also are entitled to revelation for ourselves and our families through the Holy Ghost, in accordance with John 14:26: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

So even if the speakers may not specifically address our questions, we believe that the Holy Ghost can whisper thoughts to our minds while we are in the more spiritual mindset induced by listening to the conference addresses. Or he can help us make connections between what is said and our own situation that the speaker could not possibly have anticipated or even intended.

Either way, I have to say it works. Or at least I believe I got my answer. I won’t go into detail, as we also believe such divine inspiration is sacred and not to be treated lightly. But there is a particular weakness that’s been brought painfully to my attention lately, and I’ve been looking for advice on how to overcome it. During one of the very first addresses given a particular idea jumped out, along with the thought that this was my answer. It’s an interesting answer, too, as the connection between my problem and what I feel I need to do about it is not readily clear. It’s going to require some faith on my part, though to be honest, even the most obvious answers require faith if we’re to actually implement them. One form of faith is acting, even when the outcome is not self-evident.

Over the rest of the conference there were numerous addresses that built on that answer, giving me further guidance on how to bring about the change I need, and assuring me that yes, indeed, that was my answer.

I always enjoy the peace that comes into my heart and our home during the two days of General Conference. I love the reassurance that comes that I can become a better person. I enjoy the feeling of love I feel from church leaders through their encouragement and gentle prodding to do better. These are the moments I wish others could experience, the feelings I wish they could feel. Then they would understand why I believe the way I do and belong to the church I belong to.

Now there’s another six months before the next conference. At the moment I’m still experiencing that high, but eventually it will fade, and I’ll need to reinforce the feelings I’ve felt with new experiences. But I’m always glad for these regular oases in the middle of a troubled world. And I’m glad that the people behind the scenes already have every one of the talks converted to mp3 so I can listen to them again. I’ll need that reinforcement as I move forward, implementing the answers I received in the hope of becoming a better person.