Friday, August 26, 2016

Change and Cherish has Moved On

Change and Cherish will no longer be receiving updates.

You can continue to read my writings over at Veritable Fountain, which picks up where Change and Cherish left off.

Thanks for reading!

Yes, I'm Ending This Blog Forever

Yep. Change and Cherish Blog is over. I'll do one more post after this, and then it's over.

Before you ask "But why?" hold up.

Change and Cherish Blog's successor, Veritable Fountain (located at is now live! If you'd like to see the response to this week's Thinkjoust Tuesday, as well as the other introductory posts, click the links below!

Welcome from Change and Cherish!

About Zachary James

Why I Hate War (And Why I Love It, Too)

How I Feel When I Ask People to Follow Me

So if more posts is all you're looking for, check it out!

If you'd like to know why I'm ending the blog, stick around.

When I first started writing this blog, I named it Change and Cherish to reflect the structure of the original posts. The first half would describe a mistake I made in the say, and the second half would describe something for which I was grateful in the day.

The blog is, today, unrecognizable. The purpose of my posts--to be introspective and spiritual--has evolved into a platform where I basically talk about anything and everything I want to. The thoughts I wouldn't reserve for my novels are blasted into the blogosphere on a schedule, complete with artwork and occasionally videos.

That last paragraph basically described why I'm ending the blog.

1.) Need for a re-brand

Change and Cherish stands for something different than it originally did. Instead of a pure focus on uplifting others, my posts can wander along topics from writing to politics to camels. The reason for this is because I started writing what I wanted to write, without much concern for what anybody else wanted to read.

This caused problems. Many people became hard-pressed to tell others what my blog was really about. It used to be the thoughts of a returned missionary; now it's the thoughts of an opinionated loudmouth who's aware and proud of it. In order to represent this change, once and for all, the re-brand had to take place.

2.) Too much time

Remember when Change and Cherish was a daily blog? I stopped doing that in part because my other responsibilities were too great for me to handle. I couldn't keep producing quality material every single day without needing a break somewhere in there, and so I used what became unpopular features (like Thursday Throwbacks and Sunday Snapshots) to give myself that rest.

Eventually, I realized that I just needed to give up on the 'daily' thing. I cut four days of the week, leaving only my most popular features. I stopped with the actual photography and made art from my computer. I only had to write one day, and draw the next.

But even that takes time. I spend an average of nine hours a week on this blog, nine hours I could be spending with friends, family, or even other pursuits. If I didn't hold myself to a schedule, this might have been manageable. I could have let a few posts here or there slide. But no. I couldn't do that.

3.) Too restrictive

Even before my new full-time job at Future House Publishing, having to work on a scheduled blog post every day became too much to handle. Sometimes, I had to run errands or spend time with loved ones or resolve a crisis, and the blog couldn't be a priority. But then I'd feel guilty, like I was letting you guys down, and stay up way too late to finish what should have already been done.

The thing was, the quality of these late-night posts would suffer, leaving a less-than-enviable product for you guys to read. This lowered your trust in me as a blogger, which explains the diminishing views over the past couple of months.

So, I'm done.

In order to give you a quality product, I'm moving my blogging to Veritable Fountain. There, I won't worry about artwork or scheduling. I'll actually write what I'm thinking, not worrying about pictures to say words for me. I'll only blog when I have something to say, which means you'll always know my posts are quality. And you will be able to tell people what the heck this thing is you keep reading.

So, if this is devastating to you, I really am sorry. But I really do think you'll like Veritable Fountain if you give it the chance.

After all, it is Change and Cherish's baby.

I'll see you over on the other site!

I love you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Are You Pro-War, or Anti-War? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #61

I don't really know how to precede this thinkjoust, because I'm really not trying to sway you one way or the other. As it is, I'll just offer one simple question.

What do you think?

Be sure to leave a comment below, and I'll respond with my own opinions this Saturday. See you then!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I Might Kill Two Thousand People - Response Saturday #29

The main comment I received on Tuesday's post informed me of a new philosophical problem (of which I was not aware).

The thing is, both my problem (the second one, at least) and the boat problem have hidden third choices. "Take a third option," if you will.

But let's talk about the first problem, the one that initiated last Tuesday's post.

I honestly don't think there is a third option here. Your inaction leads to the death of five people; your action leads to the death of one person. If all of these individuals are strangers to me, then I think I would pull the lever. Someone would die, but at least five individuals would have a greater chance of doing good in the world.

Of course, there's a chance the five people tied to the tracks are the modern equivalents of Hitler, Caligula, Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible, and Vlad the Impaler, while the one person could be the modern equivalent to Nelson Mandela. The SMART move would be to not pull the lever, thus killing the five monsters, but what if my decision to save them prompted them to turn their lives around and become forces for good? There's just no way to tell.

And what if everyone was a stranger except for one of the five, who just so happens to be my worst mortal enemy? Would I stay true to my initial decision to save as many people as possible, or would my hatred for my worst enemy come out on top?

I thought this question was easier to handle.

So the trolley is coming, and I have the choice to throw the fat man over the side of the bridge to stop the trolley and save the rest of the people.

The thing is, the 'heavy weight' described in the initial problem is a pretty ambiguous term. Maybe the fat man is heavier than me, but I'm 200 pounds. I can't even bench that much, so I would consider myself a heavy weight.

And let's be honest. It's not easy to just push a fat guy over. If I grabbed this dude and tried to throw him overboard, he'd probably resist, and then what? Now nobody gets saved.

So why not just jump off the bridge myself?

Now, on to the boat problem presented via the text of a picture at the beginning of the post.

For one thing, I think the problem contains a logical error. If one boat breaking down can be turned into two smaller boats that can contain the same amount of people (which I'm not sure is possible on the high seas), why can't two boats breaking down be turned into four smaller boats? In addition, if everyone on the boat is using up supplies, then the boats would actually gain more space as time went on. As it is, for the sake of this blog post, I'm not going to explore the problem beyond the initial prompt.

It seems obvious to me that, as the boat's engineer, I am the extra person described. In that case, it doesn't matter which boat I fixed, I'm always going to be included in the group of 2001 people. The question then becomes, should I sacrifice my spot on the boat for someone else on the other boat, or do I stay with the original boat to keep finding ways to fix it as more issues crop up?

I think I could do the greatest amount of good by staying with the boat to possibly save more people, but let's be honest. I'm a writer, not an engineer. They'd probably throw me on the sinking ship, and I wouldn't blame them.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What Makes a Pickle? - Thursday Thought #15

Let's examine pickles.

What makes a pickle? Is it the word? The name? If pickles were called something else, would its chemical and physical makeup be changed? I think not. Therefore, for the sake of this blog post, let's call pickles blorbnacks.

Now, blorbnacks are green and have bumps on them. In addition, they taste very good. I love sinking my teeth into a heap of blorbnacks.

Therefore, we see that blorbnacks are actually toads.

The thing is, blorbnacks are hard to catch. They hop around all over the place and hide in the tall grass. It takes a lot of skill, determination, and fortitude to catch a blorbnack,

Therefore, we see that blorbnacks are actually Pokemon.

Your average blorbnack is actually fairly easy to recognize. If you've spent a lot of time with blorbnacks, you can probably name them on sight.

Therefore, we see that blorbnacks are actually your coworkers.

Some blorbnacks are all right to be around, but others are just insufferable. You always have to avoid that one blorbnack who smells awful all the time, and has that strange habit of spitting everywhere.

Therefore, we see that blorbnacks are actually camels.

And I am a camel.


And you thought the header image was anything but dead serious.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How Many People Would You Let Die? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #60

One day, this philosopher lady was all like, "I want everyone to feel terrible about themselves!" So he created what's now known as the Trolley problem, which you've probably heard of.

I'd heard of the most basic Trolley problem. The scenario here is usually presented as follows.

"A trolley is speeding down a track, to which five people are tied. You could pull a lever and divert the trolley onto a different track, but this alternate track one person tied to it. Do you pull the lever?"

Some people make the question more difficult by revealing that the one person is a beloved family member or close friend. Other times, the five people are family members or close friends, and the one person is a total stranger. Let's ignore these extra details for now.

NOW STOP. Decide how you'd act in this situation.


Some other philosopher dude responded to the Trolley problem with a similar situation.

This time, you're standing on top of a bridge next to a fat person. The runaway trolley will soon pass underneath the bridge upon which you're standing. Five people are again tied to the end of the tracks, in danger of being squashed by the trolley. In this scenario, you are aware that this particular brand of trolley is easily stopped by a heavy weight. Do you push the fat man off the bridge?

NOW STOP. Decide how you'd act in this situation.


How did you react to the first situation? The second situation? How many people did you save in each scenario? Did you save the same amount of people both times? Be sure to leave your comments below, and I'll discuss your general trend, along with how I'd react in the scenario, this next Saturday.

See ya soon!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What Do You Want To Talk About? - Response Saturday #28

I didn't end up getting any responses!

Now, maybe it was a bad question, in which case, that was my fault, and I apologize (Hey? See what I did there?). If it was a bad question, you may wonder, "Come on, James, I've seen you do better. Get with the program!"

You're right, you're right. But first, let me explain how I come up with blog post ideas.

Usually, I'll be sitting around, minding my own business, when something just ... happens. I may see a video talking about how to improve your sense of humor. I may get into a debate regarding the effectiveness of compliments. I may be asked to give dating advice.

I'm not always thinking, "Oh man, this is a great idea for a blog post!" But then, after everything calms down, I may jot some relevant notes on a draft and come back to it later. If the thing that just happened still has relevance and importance in my mind, then I get to writing 'write' away. You, of course, may recognize some problems with this technique.

After all, I inevitably end up writing about the things I want to write about, instead of necessarily thinking about my audience. It seems I've tilted in the opposite direction from earlier in the year, when I was so dragged down by writing things I thought new readers would like that I ended up burning myself out and changing the schedule from a daily to a thrice-weekly schedule.

So even after two years of blogging, I'm still trying to figure out how to be a good blogger. Some days, I focus too much on writing for myself; some days, I don't write for myself at all (which then becomes a chore).

So as I continue to write (I have no intention of stopping C&C anytime soon), don't be afraid to let me know what you guys think I should write about next. It could be political. It could be religious. It could be personal. It could be anything. As long as it fits in my brand (and there are few things that don't fit into my brand), I'll say something on it.

So go ahead.

I'm waiting. ;)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

How to Find Happiness - Thursday Thought #14

You know, I don't think my life is all that grand. I have to live with trials and, most unbearable, my mistakes. At the same time, I consider myself a happy person.

"WHAT?!?" you say. "IMPOSSIBLE!"

No, really. Let me explain.

Millions of voices try every day to bring outsiders to their way of thinking. Religions clash over doctrines and lifestyles. Political parties tear each other down. Even athletes tug on the arms of those living the sedentary lifestyle. Everyone wants everyone to know that the way they live is the best, the ultimate, the pathway most likely to lead to happiness.

Then there's you. (Ok, maybe it's just me). I don't always know the happiest path to take, and as such, engage in frequent trial and error. Sometimes, I find something that makes me genuinely happy. Other times, I really regret my experimentation.

The thing is, I think that's how anyone finds out what makes them happy. People join groups and engage in certain lifestyles because that is the best of what they've discovered up to that point. People keep what matters to them in their life, and discard the things they decide don't matter.

There comes a point in everyone's life where something they originally thought sweet turns sour. An example of this includes moments when individuals remove TV or their smart phones from their lives in favor of simpler, less obtrusive activities and tools. In the same way, happy people do the same, taking time to evaluate what aspects of their lives make them happy, and what aspects of their lives keep them from being as such.

So, in summary, a happy person is someone who constantly determines what is best for them and then brings more of that into their lives, while removing the things that prove a hindrance to their happiness, even if it's a train of thought, a mindset, or a personality trait.

I'm still trying to figure out what makes me happy, but I do know that I've seen the happiness in my life grow as I hold on to the things that truly make me happy, and then shun the rest.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How Do You Apologize? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #59

Last week, we talked all about the five love languages. Let's keep going!

So now we know that there are different ways to express love. I would go so far as to say that there are also different ways to apologize.

For example, I am someone who easily gives and easily accepts verbal apologies. If you seem sincere, I'll probably forgive you for anything.* At the same time, in order to make up for my particularly egregious errors, I might also try to offer the affected party some service (like cleaning something for them) or give them a gift (probably a meal).

In essence, my apologies have connections to my three weakest love languages (words of affirmation, service, and gifts). My theory is that I subconsciously think my apologies are more effective when I'm doing something for the other person that I don't typically like to do.

Does this extend to everyone?

So how about you? Do you apologize with your top love language, or do you tend to apologize using languages you're not as strong in? Be sure to leave your comments, and I'll respond to them this Saturday!

*And you'll get bonus points if you apologize for something I didn't even bring up.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why Quality Time is the BEST Love Language - Response Saturday #27

Last Tuesday, I asked y'all to tell me your love language! This is what I got back!

So despite my best guesses, I guess the majority of people who commented on this last post are not words of affirmation types of people. Oh well! Maybe you reading my blog is a way of spending quality time with me, perhaps?

Either way, that didn't offer much in the way of stuff to talk about, so I guess I'd better take that quiz myself and let you know what I got. Give me just a minute! In the meantime, think about kittens or something.



Anyway, my scores surprised me, but only a little.

See, I would have thought Words of Affirmation would have beat out Quality Time? But I guess not. I think I guessed wrong because when I'm with someone, and they compliment me it's a specific event I can pinpoint and recall and even quote. I must subconsciously enjoy the presence of others more than I consciously do.

When it came to the quiz itself, I felt like the beginning could have easily been manipulated. Since I was familiar with the love languages already, it wasn't too hard to guess which of the two choices would give me which love language. The longer the quiz went on, however, the harder it was to tell.

For example, I was surprised that I got a point in 'receiving gifts' at all, but I did remember which question gave me the one point. I was asked to choose between a.) someone going way out of their way to do something for me, or b.) giving me a small present on their way home. I definitely am not much for gifts, but if you're spending an inordinate amount of time on me (I consider time my most precious resource), then I'm going to feel super guilty and probably start itching (yes, literally). I'd much prefer a 'here you go' to a 'let me sacrifice five hours for you for no good reason!' 

Anyway, so I learned something about myself today! I hope you take the chance to learn something about yourself, too.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why I'm Glad I'm Horrible - Thursday Thought #13

For a commentary on this header image, follow the asterisk.*

There is no one person more aware of my inadequacies than myself.

I could go into all the reasons why I'm the worst, why I hate many of the actions and choices I find myself making, but that's not the point of this post. Instead, I want to talk about why I'm glad I'm the worst.

I've imagined a world where I didn't make mistakes. I say everything right the first time. I know exactly what to do in every situation. I stick to my principles, living my beliefs exactly the way I think they should be lived. Nobody finds flaws in my lifestyle.

The thing is, such a world would never encourage me to improve myself.

In the world we live in now, I make the same mistakes over and over again and then recognize I have things I need to work on. Because of this, I'm more forgiving of my fellows and their mistakes. My own pride is kept to a minimum. And if I wasn't prone to error, then I would never find reason to turn to God and keep Him in my life.

If I somehow remained at a peak internal strength my entire life, that alternate self might die a better person than I will at the rate I'm currently going. However, I will have learned how to deal with trial and heartache--even if those are mostly self-imposed--and will be able to claim I did my very best.

When I make a mistake, I remind myself of a better me.

*I have a hard time making these header images sometimes. For example, looked for visual references illustrating a 'mistake,' and the most common image seemed to revolve around blindfolded people accidentally walking off cliffs.I tried to capture this image, but found it impossible to draw a blindfold on a light bulb without it looking childish or stupid. So now I worry it looks like the light bulb is committing suicide, which was not my intention at all. By the time I worried the image would be misconstrued, I'd already spent far too much time on it. I hope the lackluster 'shrug' the light bulb offers helps add some clarification, but either way, it didn't mean to fall off the cliff! I swear!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What's YOUR Love Language? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #58

I made an active decision last year to not write this sort of thinkjoust. After all, everyone talks about this stuff, right?

Then I remembered that the world doesn't revolve around me or my group of friends. "Huh," I thought. "Maybe other people will appreciate this sort of post!" So here it is.

Love languages are the ways individuals with different personalities express their appreciation for the people around them. Not everyone offers or responds to acts of love in the same way, and sometimes, this can cause friction and tension between two individuals who otherwise love each other very much.

Just as an example, I had a friend who loved to do things for me. He'd make my bed, make me breakfast, and even do my dishes. Rather than be thankful for his acts of service, I felt somewhat irritated. After all, he was giving his time and effort on things I could do for myself, and I felt extremely lazy and unproductive around him. I told him I was feeling guilty, and he just laughed me off.

At the same time, he felt unappreciated by me because I wasn't expressing love in the ways he did. I wasn't about to do his dishes, but I loved to hug him and offer him compliments.

The thing was, neither of us really felt appreciated by the other person because we were expressing love in ways that the other person didn't respond to well. The thing was, we were both expressing love, and that is the most important part.

Once we learn how other people express love, we can learn to respond to them in kind. For example, once my friend and I realized we were just having a love language disconnect, we worked at serving/complimenting each other, respectively (he still wasn't super into hugs, but I give them out like candy, so it balanced out).

Anyway, the point is, if you don't know your love languages, why not find them out?

I recommend this link here, which takes you to a test that analyzes your love language profile. Give it a shot, and then post your results in the comments! I'll be sure to be back this Saturday to talk about your results and what it means for the future of Change and Cherish.

See you then!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

How to Compliment Your Crush - Response Saturday #26

This past Tuesday, I posed the question, "How do you Compliment your Crush?"

I got a whole heap of responses!

Everything y'all said fascinated me.

Obviously, I think some of you responded with tongue firmly in cheek, but the variety of the responses were nonetheless revealing. As far as I can tell, there really isn't a right way or a wrong way to compliment someone. You could go with articles of clothing, or you could refrain from mentioning clothing at all. You could be extremely passive and avoid the situation altogether, or you could make sure they won't forget you by doing something outlandish.

I think, when it comes to compliments, you need to work with what works best for you. If a compliment doesn't go over well, then maybe that person doesn't like your style, and that may indicate you guys aren't a great fit. Or it may indicate your crush isn't a 'Words of Affirmation' kind of person. If you don't know what that means, I would recommend checking this out.

As for me, I only really have two rules. First, I never say 'today' in any of my comments. "You look nice" could refer to always. "You look nice today" might suggest that they look like garbage every other day. In addition, I try to focus on things the other person can control. If I say, "Your face is well-constructed and symmetrical," well, that compliments them less than their genes. But if I say, "I really love your thoughts on the political situation in the Middle East," well, that shows them you care for more than their body and you're a great listener!

So now that you're all ready to compliment your crush, let's see how you do!

You walk up to your crush, swaggering with confidence. 

"Oh hi! Your shoes are gross. I mean nice tasty. Uh, today is what I said. Trying to say. I mean, let's fight? You're stupid."

Welp, there you go, running off into the sunset. Better luck next time, I guess.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

America is Tolerant? Accepting? Open-Minded? My Fanny. - Thursday Thought #12

Sometimes, I truly believe America is trying to be more accepting. I really do. I see social justice making great strides toward equality for all demographics. I see people growing more willing to discuss these issues on a large scale. I realize and accept that a lot of people oppose this sort of open love for others, but the fact that there's a discussion at all demonstrates that American has made a lot of progress.

But then junk like this happens.

Article Link

Yes, seriously, Asian kid in the advertisement on the right of the screenshot. Seriously.

Y'all should know by now I don't have much love for the Republican party (or any political parties, for that matter). I am definitely not a supporter of Donald Trump, and I'm aware of the allusions his own supporters make comparing the presidential candidate with Hitler.

At the same time, can we cut this woman some slack?

When I watch the video, I just can't help but feel like the gesture was completely innocuous. I've offered lazy waves before, merely raising my hand at a roommate as they're walking out the door. I'm sure, out of context, my lazy waving could look like a Nazi salute. At the same time, I'm not being filmed. No one has the opportunity to screenshot me and present me in the compromising situations.

So many people are so quick to jump on any opportunity to embarrass or ridicule individuals for simple mistakes, especially when they're being brave and putting themselves out there. I'm sure you've seen countless examples out there. I've seen examples from the comments section on this very blog.

A similar thing happened to Jeb Bush. If the man had ended his speech with a phrase like, "Thank you," nobody would have batted an eye. His awkward choice of words led to a wave of mockery.

And who remembers the infamous 'Dean Scream'? Taken in context, the scream fits in with the speech. It isn't at all awkward. But then people jumped at the chance to ridicule and mock him for it, taking it out of context and presenting him like he was a buffoon.

In my limited experience, I have learned that many people believe in the adage, "A good defense is a good offense." Rather than focus on their own mistakes and shortcomings, they attack others as a way to deflect attention from themselves. If everyone's laughing at the kid who got tripped and spilled milk all over himself, nobody's noticing the bully with severe daddy issues.

So my message today is simple. Let's stop immortalizing people's mistakes, especially when they're entirely innocent. If there's doubt, never ascribe malice to an action when it could easily be ascribed to stupidity.

American may have gain respect for groups, but we still have a long way to go in our respect for individuals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How Do You Compliment Your Crush? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #57

One of the best ways to indicate your interest in your crush is to compliment them somehow. Of course, attempting such an act can sometimes lead to disaster. You know what this is like.

Your crush unexpectedly walks into the room and turns you into a mumbling, blathering fool. "Hi there!" you shriek. "I am person!"

Your crush gives you a worried look. "Yes," they say. "Yes you are."

Oh, snap! you think. I'm making an idiot of myself in front of Gorgeous McHotface! Searching for inspiration to recover, you glance around the room and see a couch, a DVD of The Princess Bride, and your half-eaten lunch. Perfect, you think. I'll see if Gorgeous wants to watch a movie.

"Couch Bride ate my lunch!" you say. "Punch princess for revenge?"

Your crush backs away slowly.

Aaarrrgh! you scream inside your head. Stupid! Stupid! Ok, just compliment them! One compliment can smooth this whole debacle over!

Even setting this obviously ridiculous scenario aside, how do you compliment your crushes? Is there a specific method that works for you, or do you just go with what feels right in the moment?

Let me know in the comments, and I'll discuss my own patented complimenting techniques this Saturday!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Suicide Threat: How Will You Respond? - Response Saturday #25

Let's say you're walking down the street and you see someone about to jump off a bridge, obviously about to kill themselves. How are you supposed to respond?

When I was a Resident Assistant over a hall of freshmen during my Sophomore year of college, I was trained in methods of suicide prevention, though I admit my knowledge is considerably rusty now. My recent research has helped remind me some of the important steps.

#1 - Get help.

Call the authorities immediately. They know what to do. Once you know help/back-up is on the way, approach the individual.

#2 - Keep them talking.

Individuals who are considering suicide generally feel isolated and alone. Showing a genuine interest in them will help them open up, and most individuals contemplating suicide will confess if asked a direct question.

If you're not sure your man on a ledge is suicidal or playing Pokemon Go (or even innocently both), engage in a conversation with them. You might say, "Nice day we're having!" or "How are you doing?" Odds are, they won't respond with cheerfulness, and may even say exactly what's bothering them. If you feel their mood is, indeed, depressed, ask them the question and see how they respond.

#3 - Try to understand them.

If the suffering individual hasn't explained why they're suicidal, ask them to. It could be a broken relationship, or job, or a combination of things. For whatever reason, the individual is hurting, and they won't want you to try and fix the problem. If you just ask questions and listen to what they say, you may be able to gain some valuable insights into who they are.

#4 - Help them see they need help.

This is the tricky part. They may say they don't want help even when they're just testing to see how much you actually want to help and if you'll give up on them. They may genuinely resent you for meddling in their life, and rebuff any of your pleas to find someone more educated and qualified than you in this sort of situation. If they respond negatively to your suggestion, back off and continue to keep them talking. The longer you do, the easier it will be for the authorities to respond in time.

#5 - Your mileage may vary.

I don't wish anyone, myself included, to have to work as a mediator between someone and their own death. However, I still think having some sort of plan in place to deal with these situations will help in the long run.

Of course, when it comes to extreme emotions--you know, the type that prompts people to commit suicide--there are no textbooks. Everyone is going to react and respond to situations differently, and that includes people trying to talk them down from a deadly bridge-jumping experience. In the end, you may have to go with your gut. And speaking of mileage ...

#6 - Pray

If you're a religious person (and most of you who read this blog are), invoke the power of heaven to help you. You may not know what to do and what to say, but if you remember the Lord, he will remember you.

I know every member of my own family has had experiences dealing with persons pondering suicide, while I, myself, am the least experienced of the bunch. Regardless, because of this, I know how important it is to prepare for anything. I wouldn't say I've ever saved someone's life, but I have managed to get individuals to the help they needed because of the preparations I've received--even if I've had to remind myself of that training over this past week.

I'm not an expert, but even if I'm way off base, I have a plan because I want to be able to help.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why We Need a Third Party Candidate - Thursday Thought #11

I hope my poorly-drawn political cartoon raises the point that a table cannot stand on two legs. If a two-legged table tried to lift any sort of political balance, well, it would fail.

This is why I firmly believe that America needs greater representation from a third party. Even if the major political parties can't agree on many things, they can agree that a third party threatens them both. Members of these parties often claim that if you vote for a third party, you're throwing away your vote.

Of course, that myth only serves to hold people's heads down. If voters feel like voting for a third party is useless, then they won't even try, instead casting their vote for a presidential candidate they might not even like because it's a 'safer bet.'

But that reasoning is flawed. Let me tell you about the Monty Hall problem.

You can read more about it here, but, in essence, the Monty Hall problem places you in front of three doors. A host explains that a prize lies behind each door. Two of the doors contain goats, while the last has a brand new car. The host invites you to pick a door, which you do. He then opens one of the two other doors, revealing a goat inside. You are then invited to either stick your with original pick, or open the third, unopened door. Whichever of the last two doors you open, you get to keep.

Let's get to the point. Let's say your host opens the door to reveal the first goat. Now, goats are pretty nice, and you may even prefer to take a goat home. But if you really like goats all that much, you could sell the brand new car and buy even more goats. The point is, the car is Monty Hall's best deal.

Would you really be satisfied with just taking the first goat (or even the second goat) knowing you could have won a car?

So it goes with politics. Many people genuinely believe in and admire their political parties, and I respect that. At the same time, many individuals vote for politicians just because they're there, because they're flapping their mouths on the news and have their names in headlines. And anyone can have their name in a headlines.

So what can you do?

As for me, I went onto and took their quiz.

I found out where I stood in politics.

I discovered which presidential candidate I most matched with.

The fact that I found a third party candidate so appealing was convenient, but unsurprising given my disdain for the top party's current nominees.

But see, it didn't really matter. When pointed me to Better For America, I devoured their content with eagerness.

Better For America is a movement dedicated to ensuring that a third party candidate gets coverage in this upcoming election. Better For America is trying to build a table that can stand on its own, not wobble on two legs.

I signed the heck up.

I invite you to do the same.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Talk Someone Down from Suicide - Thinkjoust Tuesday #56

Spoiler alert: I take pride in my words.

I have struggled for years to improve my way with words, both written and oral. I have studied thesauri for fun. I write six days a week. I analyze rhetoric and apply good techniques into my own. I even presume to smith my own words.

The thing is, with all my knowledge of words, I still find myself in situations where I just don't know what to say.

I couldn't imagine trying to talk someone down from a ledge. I wouldn't know what to do if someone approached me and confessed they were thinking of taking their own life. I would do my best to say things from the heart, but phrases like, "Things will turn out fine if you just hold on," and "I know how you feel," will be inadequate at best and downright insulting at worst. I've never personally encountered suicidal thoughts.

This week, I invite you all in join me in my attempts to improve my abilities with language.

Let's throw out a hypothetical situation. You're walking across a bridge when you notice a stranger obviously contemplating jumping off. What do you say to this person?

As for me, I think I would try to get a bit philosophical. I would tell the person to stop, obviously, and also tell them that every life if precious. This person has the capacity to bring a smile to someone's face, even if they don't believe it. I would tell the stranger on the ledge about me. Not necessarily my trials, but who I am and why I've come to believe such things. Most importantly, I'd do everything I could to keep them engaged in conversation long enough for more experienced help to arrive.

I don't know how I did, so I'm going to take this next week to study what experts say about proper talking-down techniques. Be sure to comment either below or on social media what you would say, and then come back this Saturday to see how you did. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Why Reading Minds is the Worst - Response Saturday #24

This post is a response to the question earlier this week. You can check it out at this link!

According to you guys, reading minds isn't worth it unless you're able to control when you can read them

Beyond that, it wasn't worth it.

I included the stipulation that you don't have control over when you read minds because every superpower has to have its drawbacks, and like Arm from Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, having the ability to read people's minds should be both a blessing and a curse.

If you think about it, all of our inborn abilities have pros and cons. You can pet a cat and pet a stove.You can listen to music, or get your drums blasted by a shrieking toddler. You can smell roses, and you can smell farts.  You can hold a baby or punch one in the face.

It's like Uncle Ben said. "With great power comes great responsibility." We owe every baby hugs and cuddles, not punches. Let's that responsibility well.

And considering that, I doubt I would well use the ability to read other people's minds. I can't tell you how many times I might have lifted someone's spirits and instead tore them down. My tongue may be used for compliments, but it has also been used as a weapon.

So let's say I can read someone's thoughts. How long would it take before I would be tempted to manipulate them? To lie to them? To learn something private for my own personal gain?

And I'd probably put myself into a compromising situation at some point. "Stacy's favorite color is orange!" I might say.

"I never told you that," Stacy says, her face turning a bright red.

"Uh ... I saw it on Facebook?"

"I've never told anyone on Facebook."

"Er ... I saw you tweet about it?"

Stacy bellows at me. "I've kept that secret for years, Zachary! Why did you have to go and reveal it? Now the witch's curse will no longer be held at bay! My face will melt, my bones will collapse, and I will be forced to walk this planet barefoot for THE REST OF ETERNITY! I hate you, Zachary! I hate you!"

"Surely you're exaggerating," I say.

In swoops a witch. "CACKLE CACKLE CACKLE!" she shrieks.

How embarrassing.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Life as a Camel - Thursday Thought #10

I recently woke up and realized something very important.

Camels have teeth.

I have teeth.

Therefore, I am a camel.

Life as a camel is great!

I don't get thirsty in this hot weather. I stomp anywhere I want. I don't need haircuts. I don''t worry about getting parking tickets. I never lose my wallet, because I can't really pick it up anymore.Being a camel rocks!

Of course, some people get upset with me. "You're not a camel!" they say. "You're a human!"

"No, seriously," I said. "I'm definitely a camel. I even have The Black Eyed Peas' single My Humps on constant repeat. And I don't even find the music intellectually stimulating!"

I have other problems when I'm asked to verify my identity.

"Sir, let me check your photo ID," a cashier might say.

"Sure thing," I'll say. "But I'm a camel now, so I probably don't look like my photograph."

The cashier peers at my plastic card. "I think you look a lot like you."

"Why, thank you," I say. "But let's be honest, my face is way longer now."

For whatever reason, the cashier's expression assumes traits associated with both confusion and abject terror. "Um, sure," she says. "Can you take your wallet now? You've left it here for two weeks."

"Ooo, no can do," I say. "I can't really pick it up. Camel feet and all."

The sad thing is, I'm often discriminated against. I can't tell you how many times restaurants have denied my patronage, persecuting me for my species.

"Is that it?" I say, wiping a tear from my eye. "You won't let me eat here because I'm a camel?"

"Listen," the manager says. "I don't care what you think you are, no shirt, no shoes, no service!"

"DISCRIMINATION!" I bellow. "I deserve the right to eat a burger however I want!"

Of course, my love for burgers has alienated me from my fellow ungulates, the bovines.

"Look," I say to my cow friends. "I eat burgers because I like the taste, not because I have anything against you as a species or even you personally."

"Moooo," a cow says.

"Oh, shut it, Daisy!" I yell. "Nobody asked a milk trollop like you!"

At this point, a farmer runs up to me. "Hey, get out of my field, kid!"

"I didn't see a sign saying anything about no shirt, no shoes, no service!" I say. "I have every right to talk to these cows as my equals and brother-in-arms!"

"Moooo," a cow says.

"It's a gender-neutral phrase, Daisy! It wastes everyone's time if I have to say 'brothers-and-sisters-in-arms.' And it doesn't roll off the tongue besides!"

Even though my perfectly normal daily life has become a bit of a struggle, not everything is terrible. You would think my gaming skills haven't improved, but I've become an amazing trash-talker.

"Who keeps spitting into the mic?" my unsuspecting opponents ask.

My relationship with my girlfriend, on the other hand, has reached an all-time low.

"Why do you keep spitting on my TV?" she asks.

"Chloe just dumped Brad on national television!" I say. "Curse you, US daytime soap opera! CURSE YOU!"

If I have to live in a world where Chloe and Brad aren't together, maybe being a camel isn't actually all that great.

I guess I'll have to rip out my teeth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Would You Even Want to Read Minds? - Thinkjoust Tuesday #55

I mean, think about it.

True, there are a lot of benefits associated with reading minds. You wouldn't have to guess anyone's motives. It'd be easy to determine if someone's actions were malicious or just plain stupid. When it came to progression in the workplace, you'd never have to wonder what your boss liked or hoped to accomplish. And relationships would be cake. Communication between partners would lack barriers, and if you were looking for a partner, all you'd have to do is walk in front of someone and see what they think about you. If they think you're worth a second glance, great! Even better, you could see the good other people recognize in you.

Of course, there are just as many negative aspects to mind-reading. It'd be tough to put any effort into getting to know someone if you already know their opinions on things. A lot of the mysteries in life would be absent, and therefore so would a lot of the fun. And while you may know the good things people think about you, you'd also know all the bad things. You may even discover that the people you thought were closest to you harbor resentment and frustration against you, wearing nothing but a friendly facade when actually interacting with you.

So let's run down a hypothetical scenario. 

You trip over a lamp and accidentally summons a genie. Rather than giving you wishes, however, he grants you a choice. You can either accept the ability to permanently read minds, or refuse it altogether. Note that, in this case, thoughts reaching your brain would work similarly to speech reaching your ears. The closer you are to someone, the easier you can 'hear' their thoughts, and the more clear the thought, the 'louder' it seems.

Which would you choose?

I look forward to your comments!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Which Insect Did You Choose to Exterminate? - Response Saturday #23

It makes more sense if you click the link and read the original post.

Since this seemed to be quite an engaging topic, lots of you responded!

So after peeling back the proposed compromises and other options, it seemed as though 66% of you wanted to see the end of all mosquitoes, while 33% of you wanted to kill all the spiders.

As for me, I'm definitely a 'kill all the mosquitoes' kind of guy. In fact, one of the reasons I'm such an ardent defender of spiders is because of their natural ability to keep down mosquito populations. I experienced first-hand proof of this last summer, when I was working with the sports camps attending BYU. One of my supervisors called in an exterminator to kill the spider population living in one of our building's basements, and in the aftermath, mosquito bite complaints went up by a ridiculous percentage.

As for the fallout, CougarMan hypothesized that if all the mosquitoes died, then all spiders would starve. While I will point out that spiders do eat other things besides mosquitoes, entomologist Grayson Brown agreed with this theory to a point. At the same time, according to Quora, removing all the spiders in the world would damage the ecology of the world to a greater extent.

Either way, it's probably good we don't have a 'kill all' button in an underground shelter. After all, God knows why these things exist, and if there weren't a reason for them, then He wouldn't have put them here.

Of course, it certainly is fun to think about, isn't it?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

How to Deliver Effective Speeches - Thursday Thought #9

There are times when I use this blog to get up on my soap box and vent. Today is one of those days.

You ever hear someone tell a story that feels like it's getting way off track? It might go something like this.

"So I was trying to figure out how to get rid of the virus on my computer. I Googled what I knew, but the first few results were old posts left on the forums of the OS customer support that nobody had ever answered. After I few more hours of research, I discovered a possible solution, only to realize it was for an older version of the OS that is now considered obsolete. Deciding to give it a try anyway, I ran the fix, but it turned out the website I was taking advice from was crooked, and I ended up getting another virus. So now I was trying to figure out how to get rid of that virus on my computer."

Ha ha, you think. That story was incredibly boring, but I see what you did there.

But the speaker doesn't smile. They don't even seem aware of what they just did. They don't even notice your look of horror. They just continue.

"I Googled what I knew."


"But the first few results were old posts left on the forums of the OS customer support."

You clench your fists, fall on your knees, and shout to the skies. "Noooooooo!"

Your boring, technology-illiterate friend has entered a rambling loop. They will continue to tell the same story over and over again, perhaps even blending the same two or three experiences together, without even realizing it. They'll finish the story about how they got the third virus, think that the story about the first virus was pretty good, and then start telling that one because who wants to miss out on a thriller like that?

I actually hear these circular stories at events designed to be inspirational. I remember countless pep talks in my youth groups and sports teams that really lost their steam long before the fifth time my leader told us to reach within ourselves and find greatness.

"All right, guys, listen! You all keep mucking around, doing whatever you wanna do, but we're trying to accomplish something great here. We don't need you to go running off every time it pleases you. We need you to be men. We need you to reach deep down inside and find whatever motivates you and do it. Being the best of the best takes time and effort, but if you're not putting in the effort, then you're just wasting everyone's time. So make your decision, because if you're with us, then you're with us, but if you're going to drag us down, you might as well pack up and go home."

A tear would come to my eye. Yes, I'd think. That was perfect. Don't ruin it by ...

"I mean, you muck around here, you'll probably muck around back home, so what's the difference? The difference is we're trying to accomplish something great here. We don't need you to run off every time you want. Be men, for crying out loud ..."

I would clench my fists, fall on my knees, and shout to the skies. "Noooooooooo!"

"James!" my leader would yell. "What in Sam's hill are you doing? Take fifty laps!"

"Oh, thank goodness," I'd say, prompting a lot of weird looks from my peers and leaders alike.

Now that I've released my pent-up rage, let me explain how you can stop rambling.

You Do Not Have a Soundtrack

A lot of people watch movies and see someone tell long stories or give long motivational speeches and think, I can do that. The problem is, most of those stories and speeches are actually scripted, and given greater meaning and importance thanks to the swelling music accompanying the scene. It is incredibly difficult to give your speech the necessary zing by working off the cuff.

So practice, but start small. When you have the floor, say what you want and what you mean in short, simple terms. Imagine how much more effective the above pep talk would have been had my leader walked in, looked at us all for a few silent seconds, and then said the last two lines.

"Being the best of the best takes time and effort, but if you're not putting in the effort, then you're just wasting everyone's time. So make your decision, because if you're with us, then you're with us, but if you're going to drag us down, you might as well pack up and go home."

Boom. The leader walks away. We're all left to ponder on those words. 

You Are the One Responsible for Audience Engagement

And moving on from that point, watch your audience. If they seem restless or fidgety, or have stopped paying attention to you, don't blame them. If you have the floor, you are the one responsible for keeping them interested in what you're saying. If people stop listening, then you stop talking, because if you lost them, the only way you're going to get them back is by surprising them.

Pay Attention to Time

In the end, the most important thing is noticing how long you've been talking. If it feels like you've been chatting for too long, you probably have. In fact, by the time you realize you're rambling, you've probably already been rambling for quite some time. The shorter the speech, the more powerful the message. Don't believe me?

Some of the most powerful speeches in American history are incredibly short. Look at Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. One of the dumbest speeches in American history was William Henry Harrison's inaugural address. He spoke for nearly two hours and ended up dying because of it. It doesn't matter if Harrison unlocked the secret to world peace in that address, the only thing people are going to remember him for is that his overly-long speech killed him.

With that, I've been rambling too long, so in order to combat any further hypocrisy (and to preserve my own life), I will end the post here.

Enjoy your improved inspirational skills!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Spiders vs. Mosquitoes - Thinkjoust Tuesday #54

You wake up.

Darkness surrounds you, an oppressive gloom sapping all input to your eyes. You sit up and feel for something, perhaps a light switch, but on the first three walls you find, you feel nothing but bricks.

As your hands brush against the fourth wall, you feel cold plastic beneath your fingertips. At your touch, the entire walls lights up with a pale blue light, momentarily blinding you. As your eyes adjust, you realize you've inadvertently turned on a touchscreen.

The touchscreen itself is nondescript, though the displayed information is somewhat unnerving.

You briefly contemplate hitting 'no' just to be a troll, but then worry that whoever's asking just might take you literally. You use your pointing digit and strike the 'yes' option.

I just did, you think. Gosh, so demanding.

You don't even have to be told which two insects are the most hated. Spiders and Mosquitoes, you think. Duh. But then you begin to wonder. If this machine really has that capability, why not just kill both of them?

The uncanny answer to your previous question seems both reasonable and illogical, but you ignore all that because something new has come up on your screen.

Ha! you think. I am totally biased, and they don't even know it. Suckers.

Well, that was uncalled for, you think.

Oh, and now you're making me do your dirty work? Shame on you, mysterious person behind all this! I bet this is a prank, anyway. I wouldn't put it past neighbor Bob to throw something like this together.

Eh. Still sounds like neighbor Bob.

All right already, you think. I've been waiting for this.

So now's your chance. Which do you choose? Be sure to leave your comments below or on social media, and I'll respond to your choice this next Saturday!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

What I'd Do On the Day the World Ended - Saturday Response #22

All of the comments had a common thread. Every respondent wanted to do the things they otherwise would if they weren't facing their normal responsibilities and had a clear conscience heading into the next, non-existent day. In essence, they would live their last day on earth finding ways to make themselves happy.

This was both enlightening and sobering for me. In the scenario I described, we all knew of the impending disaster. We had time to actively make decisions about what we would and would not do in our last day.

But what if tomorrow doesn't come tomorrow? What if, unbeknownst to me, I only have a few hours left to live? Will I take pride in my last day? Will I do things I regret? What if I don't necessarily regret my actions, but still wish I'd done something different with my last day?

As it is, I'm making a decision to add more value to my life. I don't want to find myself regretting the last moments I have if they come quicker than I expected.

How about you?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Slavery and Sex Trafficking - Thursday Thought #8

I often hear people say, "Slavery ended when Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation." The thing is, slavery didn't die. It went into hiding.

Even today, slavers and the slave trade exist. Hundreds of individuals are ripped from home and family (or even sold from home and family) and turned into the playthings of unscrupulous men and women. The victims of these tragedies are often children.

I have recently grown more aware of this issue thanks to the research others have taken upon themselves and then sent to me. As I've worked to educate myself regarding this issue, I have decided that not speaking up about it would be cause for condemnation.

And so, I share this message with you.

I first began my studies by listening to this podcast.

I know it's twenty minutes long, but at least listen to the first three minutes of it. If you're utterly bored at that point, I give you permission to stop.

Then I visited

I especially researched the 'Join the Fight' section.

And as I worked on this very post, I discovered this campaign.

My challenge today is simple: join the fight.

As for me, I jumped on that Thunderclap and donated ten dollars right from the O.U.R. website. I invite everyone to find whatever way works best for you to help and then do it.