30 May 2019

Tools of Empowerment

[This essay is included as an addendum to a Mesalands Community College employment application.]

In any endeavor, one must put forth some effort to stand out from the crowd. There is always limited resources and limited time and both must be used to best effect to accomplish one’s goals. It is vital to gain experience and, ultimately, mastery of both resources and time in relation to yourself and others so that you may be in control of your life and influence others, rather than be controlled by others or simply by circumstances.

My first job was at a movie theater.  There were any number of fifteen-year-olds that could have vied for the position I won, but I put forth extra effort and took advantage of the social connections of my family. I started out as a doorman, basically cleaning the theater between movie showings.  The guy who ran the film projectors hated working the “midnight movies” on weekends and I offered to learn his job and be his backup and soon became a union projectionist at the ripe age of sixteen.  I was making the wages of a family man while still in high school, all because I saw some opportunities and went after them.

In the digital age, there are nearly limitless opportunities to create and profit from content. The internet has proven to be a highly effective content distribution system among other things, giving almost anyone with a computer and a connection the ability to be creative and build an audience for their creations.  Never before has there been such ready access to the tools that open up the power to be seen and heard by others and to affect others in powerful ways.

The most successful people of our times often started by taking up digital tools and grasping the opportunity to use them in creative ways.  Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, used computers and the early internet to initially sell books, perfecting his e-commerce model and applying it to other products until Amazon became the world’s dominant marketplace. He capitalized on the digital resources available to him and his customers’ desire to save time in finding desired products and is now a powerful and profitable influencer.

You can also take up the same tools, computers and connectivity, couple them with your own creativity and pursued opportunities, to expand your own influence and empowerment.  We offer the resources of experience and mentoring and the time for learning to help you to better grasp and use these powerful tools to command your own future and realize your goals. We invite you to join us as we chase your digital opportunities together and put ourselves at the front of the crowd!

26 April 2019

The Honor of Being Shadow-banned

For some time, I have primarily made posts to Facebook to spread the word about blog posts and documents added to my home server. I rarely used it for anything else.  Face book doesn't share its methods for determining inappropriate speech or using their service in ways they don't like, but it is not surprising that posts that used to draw several dozens to hundreds of views (even innocuous ones like telling folks about server maintenance) now only get a handful of views.

Of course, there is no way to prove one has been shadow-banned, but the effect is easy enough to see in my statistics.

I will be searching for other methods of helping people find this blog and the server, but I am strangely pleased to have draw the notice of some pretty big entities and they feel a need to thwart me. Very gratifying!

10 April 2019

A Latter-day Saint's Imperative Duty: D&C 123

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I affirm my personal belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and this was how I learned it.

Joseph Smith was very poignant about what latter-day saints like me should do:
11 And also it is an imperative duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart—

12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—

13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—

14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness. Doctrine and Covenants 123:11-14

This is how I read these verses:

  1. point out where to find the truth;
  2. bring to light things of darkness as God points it out to us; and
  3. we should be do this earnestly.


Faith is the essential fuel but we need to provide the engine and steering to make it effectual. It isn't enough to believe that you can get to exaltation, you must begin and proceed on the journey yourself. God gave you a body, a mind, and the freedom to make choices - he judges our use of these and the progress we make with what we were given.  As we use our gifts to learn the truth and expose error, we are duty-bound to share what we learn with others.

This blog and my home server are my efforts to do these things, fulfilling my imperative duty!

14 March 2019

My "Teaching" Style - Learning by Doing It Yourself

For the last few years, I have been given the lofty title of "professor" at Eastern New Mexico University and led a college-level course in Information Technology Management. You might find my choice of wording strange, but it more accurately reflects how I tend to approach the learning process and what it is meant to accomplish.

Some guiding principles in teaching and learning that I find universally applicable:

Being Productive rather than Consumptive

When you see a need (market opportunity), your tendency should be to create a new solution to address that need, rather than only complaining and waiting for someone else to address it for you.  This applies to curriculum creation, learning opportunities, entrepreneurship, parenting - basically any facet of life.

I encourage those taking my courses to produce work that is worthy of publication in a professional journal or blog.  There is little sense in spending time writing a paper that only one person will ever read - publish it!

Learning rather than Being Taught

This puts the focus of action on the seeker of learning (student) rather than a teacher. Too often, students get frustrated that I am not up in front of the class (metaphorically - I lead a web-based course) and doing the heavy-lifting of education for them. I end up simply facilitating and evaluating their efforts to gain their own learning through a textbook and explorations from a variety of sources.  I rarely present myself as an authority in the course subject - I hope to behave more like a fellow seeker of learning who has gone further in the journey and can share the wisdom gained from a greater experience and a longer study.  This is where I get the term "leader" rather than teacher.

Learners Prioritize the Things that are Important to Them in a Larger World

The "student" is in control of priorities in their lives. Although I supervise a course, the learner determines how much effort they put into it, which reflects in their grade, and when/whether to take a course. Too often, students expect me, as the course-runner, to alter the conditions of course for them so as to work around family or health needs, essentially requiring me to change requirements to suit them and their circumstances and desires. I rarely comply with this sort of request - one cannot change the sea, only the way one approaches it. It does a student no good to have every course "requirement" shift about at their pleasure when reality, to which education is meant to be a preparation, is rarely so accommodating.

Too often, expectations are that a teacher is responsible for the grades of students, as seen by making adjustments for poor student progress, rounding up scores, or trying to ascertain a student's optimal learning modality (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) and using a variety of techniques that "reach" each learner where they are. As I teach those who should be adults, I prefer to put the responsibility on the student to rise to the stated course standard, to seek out sources and modalities that they best comprehend, and to approach competence under their own power.  Responsibility for learning must be placed on the learner, especially in the expanding marketplace of knowledge and experience, of which "college" is a increasingly small player.

Do rather than Watch; Stand rather than Sit

I come from the world of home economics, which is built on the concept of the skilled demonstration. A student watches with the understanding that they will then practice and ultimately demonstrate themselves, first to a "teacher" to certify proficiency, and then to others as a demonstrator in their own right. I am a firm believer in the value of demonstrated competence beyond book-work.  One learns best by doing, first under tutelage in controlled circumstances, later with fewer restraints.

Portfolios of work already done, showing a progression in complexity or refinement, are excellent indicators to ourselves and others that we can accomplish what we propose to do.  Be it a collection of art or a resume of positions held and projects completed, we show our demonstrated competence that should grow over time. Though we may list the names of people we originally studied under, few can successfully just ride coattails - we will ultimately have to show our independent worth beyond our degrees and mentors.



I will readily admit that having a teacher take responsibility for the "success" of their students is more profitable to the institution and less stressful to consumers in the short term of a college "career". Sadly, if that is all a learner puts into their own development, being steered about by employed servants and getting a certification to which instructors put the bulk of effort, college does society and each student a great disservice. Better for a professor to point out resources, provide initial demonstration, stand back to let students take the lead, and certify the show of learning and the student's successful products. Ultimately, it is through products that we create that will define our worth to ourselves, those who employ us, the family to which we contribute, and to society. The bulk of college coursework should reflect the need for everyone so certified to meet these demands.

22 February 2019

Charity that Goes Where Your Heart Is

I love liberty, including the liberty to see my money go into causes that I choose to support.

Alida Brown is a wonderful person. We didn't agree on much politically, but I don't question her kindness and generosity. I know she cared about me and my family and was mindful of time that was needed together when she and I worked some long hours on county health council needs. I remember that she had taken a single mother and child in need into her home for many months, helping them access opportunities. Alida is a great woman and I never would want to dissuade her or those like her from performing the wonderful service they render.

I remember some work that we were doing on a Saturday morning at the office. Our talk wandered onto the political and I recall vaguely that our ideological differences were laid bare. She struggled to understand how some libertarian-leaning person such as myself, who are so often cast of drug-addled, "anything-goes" ne'er-do-wells, would be involved in concrete, research-based, publicly-funded community health initiatives. I was certainly an anomaly in the council group, which seemed exclusively peopled by those looking to use the resources of big government to fulfill one (hopefully) altruistic goal or another.  Good folks all, but often of a different "bent" than I am.

I shared my thoughts on liberty, which is simply the ability to chart one's own course beyond the coercion of one's neighbors, especially as expressed through government. I wanted to do what I wished without being compelled by a codified dictum like tax law. I was helping her to work to improve health in our county because it helped feed my family and the work was compatible with my skill-set. Although I understood that taxes collected from everyone paid for our work, I didn't like that aspect of it.  If our work was wanted and needed, couldn't the necessary money be raised from charitable people instead of from money first taxed by the government and then legislated to a politicized cause?  I never could rectify how I should feel that taxes were better than voluntary donations.

I am always happy to see local initiatives funded by private foundations, especially ones that reflect the sensibilities of those being served. I will avoid speaking poorly of those working for the betterment of people, families, and communities - they are good people.  However, I often find myself at crossed-purposes with such folk when their help becomes "loaded" with ideology and political correctness.  Studies show that Americans are the most generous people when measured by their charitable donations and I am personally thrilled when such donations are spent in ways approved by the original donors - the work being done that reflects their heart-felt desires.  For instance, I am happy to give to organizations like LDS Humanitarian Aid and Heifer International that (hopefully) avoid large administrative overhead and provide for basic needs and education to those in the world who need it most.  I am not special, but I am glad my donations can provide help that is special to those who receive it!

I hope many of you feel the need to be charitable and don't just count the taxes you pay as your only contribution to the lives of others. Let your own heart be the guide by being charitable with the resources and time that you control!

21 February 2019

Dealing with God's Fierce Anger

As I move slowly through the Book of Mormon, I have reached Helaman 13, which is the first part of a prophecy from the prophet Samuel, a Lamanite.  This is a tough chapter, as it brings to light what could be considered by many to be some of God's more unsavory attributes. As I shared what I was reading with my wife, for example, she was expressing her own concerns that I was becoming critical to prevalent attitudes about God and what I was seeing as the projection of a kinder, gentler, somewhat ineffective God that can readily be ignored or simply dismissed. The God that Samuel speaks of here would likely be described in modern terms as harsh, demanding, and even hateful and vengeful when unheeded.  It is not surprising that many people choose to reject God because:
  • they see steadily declining evidence of God's influence on people; or
  • they only see God as a fictional character in some ancient morality story from a cruel age; or
  • they find their own modern virtues and ways to be superior to God's.
We live in a society that decries anger in any form. I have become angry at times, especially under stressful circumstances, and I am regularly castigated for it and declared a "bad man". Lost forever is the reason I became angry in the first place - which is often very justified! Modern moralists say that a good person can never display anger, yet I read these statements from Samuel:
And four hundred years shall not pass away before I will cause that they shall be smitten; yea, I will visit them with the sword and with famine and with pestilence.

Yea, I will visit them in my fierce anger, and there shall be those of the fourth generation who shall live, of your enemies, to behold your utter destruction; and this shall surely come except ye repent, saith the Lord; and those of the fourth generation shall visit your destruction. Helaman 13:9-10 (emphasis added)
The subsequent record affirms that this prophesied destruction did indeed come and the entire Nephite nation was exterminated just a bit more than 400 years later.  The quote above is put in the first person -  God himself says in his own words that he will cause the sword and the famine and the pestilence and all of this comes from "my fierce anger".  This entire chapter goes into some detail about this Godly anger and how it will manifest as the people choose not to repent. What we see in Helaman 13 is quite consistent with the God of the biblical Old Testament - a God that is passionate about developing certain attributes in his children and is perfectly willing to use seemingly "harsh" means to accomplish this.

It is no wonder that a culture such as ours that abhors even the appearance of anger would seek to recast their God as one devoid of negative emotion. Vaunted spokesmen for a variety of ideologies are hard at work redefining truth and virtue, as Samuel predicted:
But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him. Helaman 13:27-28
I find few statements that more clearly explain the prevalent preaching and adorning of the cultural leaders of our times!

The modern ideal of the doting dad that never punishes bad behavior and never raises his voice will find no analogue in the Judeo-Christian God of holy writ!  In my study, I see a God that blesses the obedient and repentant while eventually and openly punishing the disobedient and wicked after multiple warnings and ample time to comply.

In the midst of the hard predictions and promises of future destruction in Samuel's words, there is the constant call for the people to change their ways and repent so that punishment can still be changed to blessing:
But if ye will repent and return unto the Lord your God I will turn away mine anger, saith the Lord; yea, thus saith the Lord, blessed are they who will repent and turn unto me, but wo unto him that repenteth not. Helaman 13:11
We currently enjoy a time when there is an opportunity to repent and yet so many choose to read this lull as a lack of interest or existence from God. It is trendy these days to castigate those who preach better behavior, drawing upon a growing pile of contrived rationalizations, many rooted in the fact that no divine punishment has come so far. Samuel goes on to predict the consequences of such behavior and choosing not to change while the opportunity was available:
But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head. Helaman 13:38
I know that, for many, the things that Samuel recorded in this chapter of the Book of Mormon seem unkind and unflattering. We like to believe that we have built a world where such things as anger or punishment have been banished as evil. I will say that only when we are firmly on the path of righteousness should we expect to avoid God's "fierce anger" and court his loving nature. The way to turn away God's coming wrath and enjoy his blessings is to repent and change for the better. So, when a parent or other authority gets angry with you, instead of chastising them for their "unacceptable" behavior or haughtily ignoring them, perhaps you should look within yourself to make changes that will turn away such wrath. Parents and God often have a great deal in common and, in Deity's case, are working for your ultimate good - you would do well to listen and comply.

23 January 2019

We Want Virtuous People to Have Greater Freedom and Power

I have discovered that my wife really likes Dog the Bounty Hunter.  Duane Chapman and his family often convince the families of his bounties that they are better off in jail and drug rehabilitation, especially if that person's life is out-of-control.  Dog encourages some of the worst elements to get themselves clean, take responsibility for their actions and make their families a higher priority in their lives.  This is good advice for those who have used their freedom poorly.

People usually end up in jail because they cannot control their own behavior. We find that once we put them into a situation where their behavior is under tight external control, it isn't surprising to find that inmates don't develop any more self-control, though they have an great incentive to do so. Upon release from custody, they will likely be even less able to control themselves, after a period of not having to control themselves at all while incarcerated, and will quickly find themselves back in prison.  Recidivism is an expression of a lack of ability to master one's life or lack of interest toward doing so. Some of these returning inmates actually prefer the controlling environment of jail - it imposes a framework of behavior that this person didn't have on their own under circumstances of greater freedom.

There are attempts to create "half-way" houses where released ex-convicts can be helped toward better self-control in the more free society. Their activities may be stringently monitored and certain abilities may still be curtailed toward easing people into a world that needs personal responsibility and virtuous living to function. These are places of hope where people move toward the goal of virtue lived through individual liberty in a free world.  We don't want them to be constrained - we want them to be the sort of people who can be responsible enough to live free.

It doesn't help when society and its government legislate and dictate away the ability of all people to develop and exercise freedom toward self-mastery. One can't learn how to wield power with noble restraint and self-control if "leaders" impose a smothering collectivism on all.  Such overseers seek to turn communities and states and nations into "half-way" environments that appear to be moving toward something that many call a "police state" where every person is institutionally managed and all behavior and speech is heavily monitored and tightly controlled, just like in a prison.  It is the gradual stealing away of liberty from all and the imposition of dictated control as if all people are convicts and can never be trusted to act independently.  In a way, we are all being eased into a prison, whether we are convicted of crimes or not.

My desire is to preach virtue and empower those who are virtuous.  In a republic like America, our government depends on elected officials to be women and men of virtue, putting good and right before the often selfish whims of the easily-stirred masses. Collectivism, as manifested in communism or socialism, says that societies don't really have virtuous people and most people will only do good when compelled to do so, like inmates in a prison. We must reverse the societal trend to monitor and control each other. I choose to see people in a better light, even those who have been incarcerated - we each can improve, help each other to gain more virtue, and reinvest in the liberty that our ancestors worked so hard to establish in the USA.

If you are a virtuous person, I implore you to seek positions of power and to influence others for good.  I pray that your virtue includes goodwill toward those around you in spreading the conditions of personal freedom and a more universal liberty to act. The more good people that take power to act will make our nations and our world a far better place for all!