Monday, December 31, 2018

How to grow your echo chamber

For people that don't ever want their ideas challenged. And people that want every opinion and thought confirmed to be correct. People that don't feel they need to examine anything about their lives and the way they think. If this describes you, then an echo chamber is for you.

There is a foolproof method to achieve this level of happiness and insolation from the pesky misguided ideas of others. And social media will help you. I know social media is not good for much, but it is good for this.

The first step, of course, is to get an account on your social media of choice. They are all pretty much the same in this regard, so it doesn't matter which one you choose,

The second step is to add a bunch of connections or friends or whatever your social network calls them. This should be pretty easy to do. Some networks will recommend connections to you, others will let you upload a list of email addresses to invite them. The actual mechanics of this is less important than building this group.

Now that you have a social network, it is time to start building your echo chamber. This third step takes a little work. Very very little. And it is so simple.

Each time one of the people in your social network says anything that you don't like or agree with, you have to respond. No, I don't mean to engage them in conversation or challenge their statements. I mean to remove them from your network. All of these platforms have a way to remove people from your network or block users from what content is visible to you.

The final phase of this is to add new connections when the people in your social network link to or recommend other connections. If the person is still in your network, they probably agree with you on most if not all of your views. So it is likely to be the case that connections they have will also agree with you.

And there you are, just repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have no exposure to ideas and views that are not just like your own. More and more people will be connected to you in your echo chamber of thoughts. This will give you a sense that you are always right. And if that doesn't make you happy in the long run, it will at least make you feel comfortable with your opinions and give you the sense that there are only a few, if any, people that don't think exactly the same way as you do.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Making Heaven's Home

Sometimes people ask me
Why I do, just what I do
And it always takes me back to
When my family was new.

My wife and I made promises 
To God, and to each other
We would love and cherish
A family after his pattern.

So we started out with purpose
To build our heaven’s home
Following HIs footsteps
Whatever was to come.

And part of that promise
Was to love, and take care
Of some of heaven’s children
That came down to live here.

But what might not be clear
Or maybe, unexpected
But you can come to see
After you’ve reflected

That God send precious spirits
To homes, less than worthy
And when they have the chance
We should serve them as surely

God does not see them 
As another’s child
We do all belong to Him
All know his loving smile.

So listen to the wisdom
Don’t let the chance be hid
To serve our heavenly father
By loving a stranger’s kid.

-- Roy Hayward

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So I am posting another poem on the anniversary of the Birth of my son Frank Edward Hayward V. He was with us for only one day and affected all of us forever. He was born 11-11-2011. 

He would be 7 years old today. 

When my wife and I stopped being able to have more of our own children we started to fulfill a dream. Maybe not a lifelong dream, but a dream we had been planning on living for all of our married lives. That was the dream of doing foster care. 

Today, there are many children in our home that we encountered first through foster care. Three of them were born in 2011.  Doing Foster Care is not the easiest thing to do. But it is not the hardest either. 

My wife and I did the hardest thing 7 years ago tomorrow when we said goodbye to Freddie. Loving someone, even a child isn't always easy. But it always comes with its reward. 

The reward is making heaven's home.




Thursday, November 1, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo again!

I'm working on the third in the series in my Legend of Trees series. As I am writing this, only the first book, Arbor Colony is out on Amazon and other online booksellers. The second book, "Seed or Stars" is in editing and will come out before Christmas 2018.

And that leads to why I am writing the third in a series. I hope that isn't too confusing.

I mean, ideally, I would finish and publish all the books in a series and have nothing still in the WIP phase so that I can start NaNoWriMo with a clean slate and nothing to distract me from it. But that is not going to happen without a lot more planning than I am able to do right now.

So the third book has the working title of "Space Forest." One of the members in my critique group says I should call it "Trees in Space" but I think that sounds a bit too zany. These are not YA, and that would be a better title for them if that was the genre. 

But it's not. So it isn't. And I won't.

Today is the first day. I have beaten my work target. And now I am celebrating a bit by writing this blog post.

I will probably be posting again in a week to brag some more. Unless I am falling behind. In which case I should spend my time working on the novel.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Book Review: Too Much Information

I just finished reading Too Much Information. I received a promotional copy from the author with no obligation to review. I did review it. It was great.

If I'm going to start reviewing books I should probably post my criteria somewhere. But this book met them all.

First, "Too Much Information" is listed as YA. For me this should mean that the content should be targeted at youth and adults that are looking for a book that won't have too many adult themes.

This book was clean. Nothing objectionable in the dialog, content or actions of the characters.

This book was light on violence. The action scenes were well constructed to be engaging and sometimes intense. The author did a great job indicating that things had happened off screen without feeling like you had missed anything.

Gabe and Rylee are teens. They are dealing with Gabe's supernatural gifts, and the people that want to take advantage of them. They are also still in school, and that English Essay is pretty important too.

In the end, I hive this book an all positive evaluation on the recommendable scale. There is nothing to warn anyone about.

And I give this book a 5 stars on the good read list. Book has good characters, a great story concept, and a well-executed plot and storyline.

Looking forward to what Dale Britton writes next.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Base-Line Budgetting: they way it aught to be.

If you live in America, you should be familiar with the term Baseline Budgeting. Basically, this is a method of accounting that no one but the government does. No one does it because it is stupid, and it wouldn't work for anyone else.

But it could work. It should work. And if I were President, there would be a way to make it work correctly.

Current Baseline Budgeting works like this. You take your budget for the year, and you just increase all of the numbers by 8%. So if you spent  $150.00 on shoes this year, you will spend $162.00 next year. And you don't have to justify the increase. It's automatic.

And you don't even tell people that it is an increase. You tell everyone that $162.00 next year is holding to the same budget. After a few years, like 10 years of 8% compounding increases your shoes are $323.00. And this is just holding the budget you tell people. The government isn't raising what it spends on shoes.

But the actual numbers are a lie. We are spending more and calling a 7% increase in actual dollar spending a cut to the baseline budget.

Spending 8% more is no increase and spending 7% more is a cut. Imagine if we actually spend less than the year before. What is that? Probably a government shutdown.

How this should work:

The government should only spend money to solve a problem. And if we spend money to solve a problem we should make progress on that problem. My example is that if I build a fence to keep the rabbits out of my carrots. It costs money. But after I build the fence it should cost less to maintain the next year.

Let's say that if I spend $150.00 on that fence. Next year I spend 8% less on rabbit prevention. Maintain the fence and maybe improve it. Just a bit, or maybe even a whole lot as I learned what I did wrong with the first fence. After 10 years. by rabbit prevention will be costing me $65.16 with yearly compounding 8% decrease.

Any excuse to increase funds from this baseline increase should be met with skepticism or a really really good reason. Like a natural disaster or something. Any program or department that is not decreasing its cost by 8% every year should be audited. People should be fired. Politicians should apologize for wasting the taxpayer's money.

After all, if the government is not solving the problems that it spends money on so that they go away, then it is not doing its job.

There. I solve the budget.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Faith is not an Argument

There are times when I find myself feeling defensive about my faith. It seems like there are people that want to treat things of faith as something that can be argued. Something that can be proved or disproved. Or something that is subject to some rigorous empirical inquiry.

If this were possible, faith would cease to be faith. It would be knowledge.

There are some things that may have a correlation that I'd like to explore. Let's find out.

Faith is not an Onion

I like onions and garlic. I think that many foods are enhanced by the inclusion or addition of onions and garlic. To me, they obviously tastes delicious. I have some data about the heart benefits of garlic and the immune system benefits of onions. Not to mention nutrition.

I have encountered people that don't really like onions and garlic. That's ok. But imagine if you will, meeting someone that has never tried onions, but doesn't like them. (I call these people children.) And now imagine yourself in a discussion where they are trying to convince you that you shouldn't like onions either.

What can they actually say about them? Is it possible for them to really be objective? 

Maybe after expressing their dislike of onions, they then take a taste of an onion, and then spit it out and declare that they have tasted it, and it's nasty. Is this now an objective opinion?

Or maybe there is someone that grew up eating onions their whole life. They really neither liked or disliked them. And then decides that they don't like them after all. And stop eating them, and tries to tell you that you should stop eating them too. Does this matter?

If you like onions, you really should admit that you do. You should be able to do so without having your intelligence questioned. And if you like something, it is only natural for you to tell others about them and encourage them to try something that you like. If someone comes over to my house to eat, they should expect to be served onions. And making gagging noises while eating them is really just plain rude. (unless you really have an onion allergy, in that case let me know in advance and I'll make some bland soup for you.)

Now back to faith.

I know that Jesus Christ is my savior. That he died for my sins.  And that through his atonement and love, I will be saved and live again.

I know there are some people that haven't tried a faith in Christ. I have and know of the benefits it has on my family, my marriage, my children, my life, and the society where I live. So I encourage others to give it a try.

If you come over to my house, you'll encounter a bunch of faith-based things. We pray. We go to church. We have pictures of Jesus all over our home. We read the scriptures. We use our knowledge of God to explain the world, its purposes and how to behave to our children. It's way too much religious exposure for some. But it's the way we like it.

You may not like faith and religion. Or not as much of it as I do. Or you may like your faith tempered with some rock music and dance. (I like that too from time to time.)

But if you come and tell me that I am wrong. That faith tastes bad, and religion has no benefits. I'll smile at first as your innocent naivety, and then if you are still trying to argue about it, I'll try to explain that it's not really up for a debate.

Oh, I have an open mind. But the criteria by which I come to know Christ is the same by which I come to know onions. I have direct, intimate, experience. It's not just something I think is a good idea. I know that I know.

Child-Like is not Child-ish

You can tell me that I'm deluded, or mistaken or wrong or gullible. But at the end of the day, I am still getting direct benefits from my faith. I remember the benefits of the past. I look forward to the benefits of the future.

You can say that onions are bad and that I'm wrong to eat them. But at the end of the day, I am getting the direct benefits from onions. I remember fondly eating them in the past and look forward to having them for dinner tonight. 

Faith is not an onion, but trying to tell someone else what foods to like, what religion to believe in or what they should choose as a favorite color is to act like a child.  No amount of gagging noises or making faces will make me stop liking onions or having a faith in my Lord and Savior.

On-going Discussion

If you are curious, or want to know more about onions or Jesus Christ I am an evangelist of both. I would love to talk with you over email, comments bellow, text or instant messaging, or even face to face. But probably just one of these at a time. I must be getting old because I find it odd when people text each other face to face.


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Making a Difference

I remember hearing this story when I was a very young child. And it has stuck with me. When I started doing foster care, I started thinking of this story over and over. Here is how it goes.

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After a storm, a man went down to the beach for a walk. As he walked he could see that the storm had tossed up lots of starfish. The beach was covered with them.

The man rounded a bend and came upon a little boy running up and down the beach. He would pick up a starfish and throw it into the sea. He did this over and over again as the man approached.

"What are you doing?" the man asked.

"I'm saving the starfish." the boy said.

"But son, you can't save them all." the man said. "Look at the beach, there are thousands of starfish. You are just one boy. You won't make a difference."

The boy looked up into the man's face for a long moment. Then he looked down at his hands holding a starfish. Then he turned and tossed the starfish back into the sea.

Then with his back still to the man. "I made a difference to that one." The boy said. "And now there are two of us."

----------

Right now, the foster care system of the State of Utah is running out of homes. The workers have let my wife and I know that they will place as many children with us as we will take. But we can't take more right now, we have to help the ones we have feel safe and secure.

If I let myself I could panic thinking of all of the others. The starfish that I can't reach. Ones that will have to be helped by someone else.

My wife and I feel really privileged to be able to take care of the children that have come to our home. The ones we have now. The ones we have given back, and the ones we will get to keep forever.
I know that I'm making a difference. I'm not a perfect parent, my wife is closer to it that I am. But I don't have to be super-dad to make a difference.

I like watching star trek too much.
I lose my temper sometimes and yell. (but I try not to.)
I have to remind myself they are just kids sometimes.
I respond sarcastically when the 10th child has asked if we are there yet.

And yet with all of these flaws, they let me have more children. With a house bursting with people, they let me have children. It really is a crisis when they ask me and my wife if we are ready for more.

But please don't ask me if we have enough or if we are going to stop. Because I'll ask you a question right back. Are you going to take my place?  There are still starfish on the sand. I'll take a break as soon as they are all in the water.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Keep Your Shirt On

One summer's day when I was a teenager my brother and I were working outside. The sun beat down on us and it was just us. So we were shirtless. It was more comfortable this way.

During this time our neighbor Amy showed up. We often rode horses and did other activities that young teenagers do. Her showing up was not unwelcome or really that unexpected.

My brother and I greeted her and she started talking about going and doing something. I don't remember exactly what it was. But I do remember that I excused myself and went inside and put on a shirt.

I returned and talked to her. Immediately, my brother excused himself and went inside. Amy whispered to her friend, "In a minute, he will come out with a shirt on too."

Of course, she was right. My brother and I, without planning or coordinating had traded entertaining our visitor and getting our shirts on. But I remembered this comment mostly because I realized that Amy didn't care if my brother an I had our shirts on.

What is my reaction to learning that women didn't care if I wore a shirt? Was it to rip off my shirt and prance around? Nope, I don't wear a shirt for girls anymore that I take my shirt off for girls. I wear shirts because I care about what I look like, and want people to get the impression of me that I have intended.

I have daughters. They tell me that sometimes people tell them that dressing modestly is to keep boys from having evil thoughts. As a former boy, no amount of clothing will keep a boy form having evil thoughts if he wants to.

Girls and boys should dress modestly for three reasons. Firstly, dress is a form of communication. Just as putting on a jersey or t-shirt with a team name or logo on it communicates your allegiance to that team. Putting on the uniform of a retail store communicates that you work there and are able to assist customers. Wearing clothing that is not modest is a communication about your moral standards. About which team you are on in a religious sense.

A boy or girl that wears clothing that exposes the form of their body to others is communication. It says things like, "I'm interested in getting a pass." or "I want to be touched." Or "I'm open to casual intimate relationships."

Some people want to object that they are not communicating this, they just like the way it looks. Or feels. This is the same hollow argument that you can listen to a song about murder and rape, but don't listen to the lyrics. You just like the beat. It's self-delusional.

There is a second reason to dress modestly. A person who dresses modestly is expressing their self-worth, self-esteem, and value. In a store, the display model is always sold cheaper than the products still in their box. Merchandise that has been handled and examined by the general public or anyone with just a casual interest has a perceived and actual loss in value.

People are not products. Boys and Girls are not wares that are up for sale. But the analogy holds true. Declaring that you are cheap is what you are doing when you dress immodestly.

The third reason to dress modestly is behavioral and emotional. The way a person dresses affects their behavior. It affects the way they feel about themselves and others. An athlete that dons the team uniform feels differently than they did before they entered the locker room. A boy who puts on a tuxedo feels differently than a boy who puts on a ripped t-shirt and overalls. A girl who wears a ballgown feels differently than a girl in a mini-skirt and tank top.

It's possible, that for a variety of reasons, that we have become comfortable in our ripped t-shirts. It is also possible that we have become comfortable with poor nutrition and bad hygiene. We shouldn't stay somewhere that is not the best for us just because it is comfortable.

There are specific activities and places where wearing less is appropriate. Swiming and other athletics are times and places where we may need to take our shirts off, so to speak. There are going to be others and I will not attempt to list all of them as that would be futile. But if we are holding our selves as people of value. If we are holding ourselves to a high standard of behavior. And if we are holding true to the commitments we have made to our faith, our God, and our family. If we are holding these things, we need to hold to modest standards of dress and grooming that will help us, protect us, and let everyone know that we do not yield to casual temptations of comfort and popularity. We hold ourselves up and apart from the base and common things of the world.


Monday, February 19, 2018

It's not about Guns, it's about Fear

Let’s not kid ourselves. Gun laws are not about saving lives. If we wanted to pass laws to save lives we would be banning swimming pools, cigarettes, furniture with sharp corners. But we are not afraid of the swimming pool or the sofa table. We should be afraid of the cigarette, but we aren’t afraid of that either. But a large group of people are afraid of guns. We need to ask why.

Humans are terrible about applying real probabilities to what is dangerous. Our brains see a lightning strike and our defenses are triggered. We all know that the chances of getting hit by lightning are really remote. But we still jump when we hear thunder. Shark attacks are so rare that you are more likely to win the lottery while being struck by lightning than get attacked by a shark. But people still rank this as something they are afraid of. So what do sharks and guns have in common?

If we imagine that someone walks into a school carrying a swimming pool and begins to beat people with it, the image makes us laugh. Even if we imagine someone walking into a school and blowing second-hand smoke at everyone to harm them, the image makes us chuckle. But imagine someone walking in with a gun and we are registering fear and defensiveness. Sometimes that defensiveness is aggressive, sometimes it is running away.

People that are afraid of guns and want to ban or regulate them are not doing so out of an examination of the actual threat. They are doing so out of an emotion of fear. Fear for themselves and empathetic fear for others. Empathy is good, but we need to look at data before we start telling people what they can and can’t do.

Our first question needs to be, “What do we actually want to happen?”  If our goal is to save lives, we need to open a discussion about swimming pool regulations. If our goal is to ease people’s fear, then we should admit this and talk about how to do this.

What reduces fear? When I was just a kid, I was afraid of lots of things. Children are commonly afraid of the dark, of loud noises like thunder, of trying new foods, and being lost.  Most of us begin to overcome our fear of the dark when we learn to understand that what is there in the dark is the same as what is there in the light. Most of us stop being afraid of trying new foods after we learn that there are some great new foods and we should try them before making a preference. And most of us stop being afraid of lightning when we learn how rarely it hurts anyone.

What do these things have in common? Knowledge conquers fear. Familiarity and experience conquer fear. We didn’t outlaw darkness and impose regulations on lightning. We do have some laws about how big your Coke can be, but those places are generally mocked for doing so.

How do we apply this to guns and sharks?  We should have everyone learn about the habits and nature of sharks. Doing so, people will stop fearing them. And we should have everyone learn about firearm safety and function. We need to do both of these things the same way we approach sex-education. And probably at about the same age.

Do we still need laws about guns? Sure, we have laws. Most of them are rational.

Do we need to do something about school violence? Sure, I think we should ban gun free zones and encourage teachers that are interested to receive training and firearms to carry at school. Or carry all the time. I think we need to have active shooter drills like we do fire drills. And I think we should have armed security at a school just like we do at banks and court houses.

I bet that if we did propose legislation to train and arm teachers, that the NRA and gun owners would support it. They might even help develop the training and raise money for it. I’m not sure who would oppose raising money for school security, but if we earmarked the money only for that purpose, I don’t think we would see much opposition.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Right now we are reacting out of fear. We are not looking at the facts. Sympathetic parents who have lost children are being trotted out on talk shows to make us cry. None of them are talking about the statistics of gun and shark violence. They are all talking about their tragedy. But let us be wise, and not act in fear.

Yoda said it best, "Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering."