Thom on May 4th, 2016

I had no idea Physics Girl could sing! And she joins with Malinda Kathleen Reese!

And since it’s Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you, etc.), there’s this Star Wars medley mixed with science parody:

And this…is just all sorts of awesome!

Yup, I’m a nerd. And proud of it!

Thom on May 3rd, 2016

I just realized I never posted a follow-up to my gripping, compelling series on my experiences with the Utah caucus system, and I know from the sheer volume of emails that you’re all just dying to read it. So for all you (non-existent) people:

The most interesting thing to come out of the caucus process was to make contact with my local State Representative. He was running unopposed, and so didn’t really have to put up much of an effort. And yet he held several events to get to meet delegates and find out who we are and what our concerns are. He described us as “The House of Representatives for District 32”, and wants to keep in touch over the next two years of our tenure. I guess time will tell how serious he is about that, but it was impressive nonetheless, considering how little anyone other unopposed candidates wanted to even acknowledge our existence.

The Big Event was the County Convention, held one Saturday morning a few weeks back. I got there early, having been warned about how bad parking can get. It was held at a local high school I’ve been to on a few occasions for book signings (Brandon Mull draws quite a crowd!), which was one of the few places big enough to hold such an event. Before the meeting proper the candidates were given a space in the school gymnasium to set up booths and meet delegates. About the only one that I could find and/or showed much interest in talking to me was the one mentioned above–who remembered my face, if not my name as I walked up. After a few minutes I decided to go stake out my seat in the main auditorium.

The first several hours were devoted to preliminaries and procedural stuff, like instructions as to what would be happening. We also said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the Star Spangled Banner–and believe me, hearing both done by 2200 people (out of 2600 possible delegates) at once is a spine-tingling experience in itself.

Then came the cheerleading. Most all of the national level (ie. US Senators, Representatives, Governor, etc) and county-level officers came to report on their efforts. So many of them were subjected to standing ovations for simply walking into the room, and it made me a little uncomfortable. I decided that, as I was there representing everyone in my precinct and as I couldn’t know how they personally felt about each officer, I’d best keep my own feelings out of it and just sit there, clap respectfully, but not otherwise give any sign for or against what they had to say. At least that’s what I told myself. It was a convenient out, but frankly their pandering and specific wordings designed to elicit cheers got old really quickly. Yes, yes, we’re all for broad things, and the opposition is against anything good in the world. I get it. Give me details and context or shut up.

I did come away from that determined to do some more research, as I realized I was only getting one side of the story and I didn’t want to fall victim to Stockholm Syndrome. That said, it was kinda cool to be in the same room as some of these people I hear about regularly in the news. But cool doesn’t get my vote. I’ll be checking the issues and the stances on both sides before the elections this fall, and weighing each on their actual merits, not their celebrity factor, thank you.

If you’re sensing a little hostility in my report by this point you’re probably not wrong. Cheerleading does start to grate on my nerves after a while. I doubt the other party’s convention was any different.

After the main meeting ended those delegates in districts with actual contested races got to break off into their individual districts and vote for whatever races they needed to decide. I went and ate lunch, as I was not in one of those districts. The next session I did need to go to, though, as we had a number of delegate seats for the State convention left to fill for precincts that didn’t get enough turn-out on caucus night. We worked through that rather quickly, chose our three, listened to our State Representative again, and a few other unopposed candidates that wanted to drum up our support for the fall election, and called it a day.

On the way out I did get to chat with the Utah Speaker of the House, who was a missionary in the same area I was in Australia over twenty years ago (never, ever would have expected that future for him back then). But by then I’d pretty much had my fill of politics and was happy to get home and get started on replacing our garbage disposal. I understand the state convention can go on even longer–in which case I’m glad I didn’t go to that one.

So my responsibility as a county delegate is completed for another year. It was an interesting experience, certainly, and I’m not sorry I was involved. I am, perhaps, a little disappointed with some of the delegates who didn’t show, but that’s not worth getting bent out of shape over. I did my duty, and that’s what matters.

Thom on May 2nd, 2016

It’s become a tradition of sorts; every year at LTUE I buy a book to support a new author. This year it was Julie Frost. I met her in the dealers room where she was sitting at the WordFire Press table working on her laptop with a sign in front of her saying “Please disturb the writer!” So I disturbed her, and we had a great conversation. And in the process I picked up her debut novel Pack Dynamics, even though I suspected it wasn’t really “my thing.”

Pack Dynamics is a paranormal/urban fantasy, though you could also argue some sci-fi elements as well. In short, it’s about werewolves and vampires and nanotech, and a veteran with PTSD who has a very bad, no good, really awful couple of weeks. Okay, perhaps it wasn’t all no good. But it starts off with him being tased, abducted, interrogated and dumped in the street, and it’s mostly downhill from there. Caught up in the middle of industrial espionage and powerful people with dark secrets, he’s in for one doozy of a ride.

I can’t say I’ve ever been that interested in the fur, fangs, and claws genre–never read Twilight and probably never will–so this was a bit of departure for me. But I do try to broaden my horizons from time to time. I have no idea if this novel was typical of the genre, but perhaps I’ll find out at some later date. (Come to think of it, Monster Hunters International was in the same vein (no pun intended), so perhaps I’m not such a stranger to the genre as I thought.)

The focus of the book is on action, and the interpersonal relationships between the characters, which is probably why I enjoyed it. It didn’t dwell on backgrounds, ancient curses, or even a lot of character backstory, but just gave enough of a skeleton to hang the plotline on. It’s a lean book, so those who like a lot of exposition, background, explanations, etc., will likely be disappointed. But I found it an entertaining read that kept me coming back until I finished it. I enjoyed the character arcs of two of the main characters (the other two don’t really have an arc, really, which is okay). There weren’t a lot of amazing twists, but that also doesn’t bother me. Far too often writers throw in twists just to show how clever they are. If the plot is engaging and fun without a twist, I’m fine with that. Nor does every plot have to be world-threatening. This one is primarily character-threatening, and that’s good enough for me.

Pack Dynamics took me in some new directions, with some interesting characters. It didn’t come with a lot of gravitas, nor was it intended to. Frost, I believe, was trying to write a fun, entertaining story, and for me she succeeded. I look forward to seeing what she come out with next.

There is language, some gore, and some allusion to “offstage” sex. I’d probably be okay with my fifteen year old reading it, but perhaps not my eleven year old just yet.

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Thom on April 29th, 2016

I stole this idea from Malinda Kathleen Reese, a Youtube celebrity who takes Google translations of songs and then videos her own cover using those odd translations. Following her suggestions, I took a verse from a well-known song of my era, entered it in the left-side panel, then selected a random language to translate it into on the right. I then took the results of that, pasted it into the left, and then picked another random language and repeated this several more times through about five different languages. Can you identify the result?

It is 5:00 on Saturday. Class people joined. He was an old man sitting next to me, who loved his daughter tonic. I said, “Son, can you play the piano, I’m sure you will do it, but the pain and clarity, and I understand that if a man called the strong ones? .. “

I’m sure the first line, which is hard to mistranslate, gives it away. But without that it becomes much trickier. Let me try another one, taken from English to Afrikaans, to Maori, to Galician, to Luxembourgish, and back into English:

I heard the beat goes night
But heard only whispers of some quiet conversation
It was the race 12:30
TV and examines moonlit stars giving me Cut
I have an older along the way,
Hoping a long-forgotten words or current career sing
He said to me, as if to say:
“Hurry boy, were you”

It will take a lot for me to get away
There is nothing that a hundred men or more could be work
I bless the rains in Africa
It will take a long time, if we have not done (and

Anyway, it’s kinda fun. In the case of Ms. Reese, she invites fans to send in translations every month and she uses them for a song. This one was kinda fun:

This one made me laugh. The video spoofing is as much fun as the odd translation, if not more so. Take that, Miley:

She also does more serious covers, and does a pretty good job of it. She’s got a rather enjoyable voice:

Thom on April 28th, 2016

In an interesting, painful video, two female sports reporters get to pull a selection of nasty online comments directed at them and have them read to them by regular guys who did not write them in a Jimmy Kimmel-style “mean tweets” video. The result is painful and awkward and, while getting the point across, also manages to miss the target.

For one, this level of “dialogue” is common everywhere on social media and online commentary. And while it’s additionally unfortunate that women have to put up with this for just doing their jobs, it’s unfortunate that this happens at all, to anyone.

But somehow, I don’t think having innocent guys–who are clearly decent guys because they are visibly bothered by what they’re asked to read–reading these posts is fair. It’s asking them to take responsibility for someone else’s despicable trolling, and that’s not fair. It would be much better (and much more difficult, obviously) if they could get the actual people who wrote the posts and get them to take responsibility for them to the target’s face. I suspect the reaction would be similar to what we see here, but much more useful. It’s the actual posters we need to shame, not random men or male-kind.

But the over-all point here is quite valid, and applicable FAR beyond the scope given here. There are nasty people everywhere online. Even those who are not anonymous and who are communicating openly with their “friends” tend to forget they are speaking to real people who may relate to the group being commented on. We wouldn’t have these types of conversations face to face. The world would be a much better place if we could learn not to be mean just because we can’t see the person. But that doesn’t seem to be the direction we’re headed.

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Thom on April 27th, 2016

Last night I dreamt that there were entire sections of our house I’d never noticed before–and that other people were living in them and paying rent to the previous owner. That other people were living in our house or that I’d never noticed extra floors to the house before didn’t bother me, just that the former owners were still collecting the rent.

My subconscious must be telling me I should have been an architect, as this house and many other buildings in my dreams are really, really cool, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen them before. This one I confess to a little twinge of disappointment when I woke up and realized that wasn’t really our house. And that was just the interior. I suspect the landscaping was incredible.

Thom on April 26th, 2016

“If that’s all you’re known for, that’s not a bad thing at all.”

My hat is off to this gentleman. Respect and patriotism are not in vogue any more, but I can’t help but think we’d be in better shape as a nation if they were.

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Thom on April 25th, 2016

We’ve probably all seen the Holderness family’s videos at one time or another. Whether you find them corny, campy, funny, or meh, it at least seems like they’ve got a good family dynamic going on. And while we can expect they’re only going to show their best faces to the world, it seems like, for the most part, the parents have a good relationship.

Well, recently I found they have a blog, and that they published their own lists of marriage advice. I reckon it’s worth a look. Some highlights:

2. If you think you are doing half the cleaning, you are doing like 20% of the cleaning

6. DVR sports games. you can get through them in like a third of the time, which makes

watching sports less annoying to her. On that note…

7. Trying to get her into sports so she’ll watch it with you will never happen.

2. Be nice: I always thought it odd when spouses/partners/friends saved the worst version of themselves for the people they love the most. You’d smile when greeting an acquaintance; give the same courtesy to your partner.

4. Learn his/her brand of crazy.  Penn gets overwhelmed on Sunday nights and Monday mornings. There are so many things we want to accomplish in the week ahead and it’s dizzying. He gets antsy and is not at all like his golden retriever self (see above). I know it will pass. I know he’ll come back to me by Monday afternoon at 1:30. He gets annoyed if I constantly say to him, “It will be okay, we got this!” Sometimes I just smile, turn around, and let him work through his stuff. That’s how I deal with his crazy.

5. Enjoy daydreaming. Penn and I love where we are in this life. But we love playing the “In five years…” game. What will we be doing on this day in five years? Where will we be living in five years? What kind of job will we have? It’s fun.  Try it.

There is more, but this is a good sample. Some of this is just another way of saying things we’ve heard before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good advice.

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Thom on April 22nd, 2016

An interesting article over at explores just why we can be so mean online.

“If a source of our moral outrage is a desire to advertise our own goodness, then that helps us understand why oftentimes our moral outrage goes off the tracks,” David Rand, the senior research on Jordan’s experiment, says.

The internet has a way of taking our evolution-derived instincts and kicking them into hyperdrive. Twitter is like a Skinner box (think rats pushing a lever for a reward) for the joys of public shaming. We can keep pressing the lever without any real fear of retaliation. When the Justine Saccos of the world drop a misguided comment in Twitter, that’s an easy opportunity for thousands to get some morality points.

Read the whole thing. There are several hypotheses worth exploring. Clearly something needs to change.


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Thom on April 19th, 2016

Camille Paglia: saying the things you or I would be crucified for…

It’s long, but worth a listen. Maybe it’s just because I find myself of a similar mind much of the time, but it seems like she’s a good example of critical thinking.