J. Lloyd Morgan's Blog, page 3

June 29, 2014

One of my daughters “graduated” from eight grade this year. It’s considered a graduation because she’ll be starting high school in the fall. This was the third time we’ve had a daughter go through these graduation proceedings. It’s held in the gym at the first part of June—a gym that is like five-hundred years old with air conditioning that is about as effective as thinking cool thoughts.
Each year, the chorus sings. And each year, they sing the same song—one that drives me nuts. It’s called “Seasons of Love” from a musical called Rent. The opening lyric starts out as, “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.” (I guess that’s appropriate because that’s how long the graduation ceremony seems to last.)
That number, 525, 600, is the number of minutes in a year. Well, a standard year, not a leap year. Hmmm. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe during a leap year, they won’t sing that song. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course they will.
Anyway, it’s a cliché that everyone is given the same amount of time each day, or each year. How we choose to spend it is up to us. Kind of.
Let me elaborate.
Last year, I was able to help our church with supplying food for those in need. It’s actually a really neat program. For those in the LDS faith, there are food warehouses filled with various types of food. If a family is in need—health issues, job loss, things like that—they can get food from the church twice a month.
It’s a little more involved than that, and needs some clarification to make my point. In order for someone to get food, it needs to be approved by the congregational leader (known as a Bishop) and the leader of the woman’s organization (called the Relief Society President). The Relief Society President works with the family to find their needs and then orders the food ahead of time.
When the food arrives at the church twice a month, the people from the warehouse only bring what has been ordered for the various families. There aren’t any extras.
One time I was helping a lady pick up her order. She was one of the first people to come in that morning. I had a sheet of what had been ordered for her. As we filled her order, she kept saying things like, “I want two of these instead of one” or “My kids really like those. Give me a few more.”
I kindly, as I could, told her we could only give her what was on the order sheet. If she needed more for her next order, the time to decide that was when she next met with her Relief Society President.
At one point, she became frustrated with me and said, “I don’t understand why I can’t have more. There is plenty here.”
I stopped, looked directly into her eyes, and as nicely as I could explained, “There isn’t any extra. They only deliver what is on the order sheets. If I give you extra, then I’m taking away from someone else who ordered it, and therefore needs it.”
It took her a moment to process this concept. Here she was, surrounded by food, yet she struggled with the idea that she couldn’t take all she wanted; the rest of it belonged to someone else.
What does this have to do with the “time” story earlier in the blog? It’s this: I have had to attend a lot of meetings for various reasons during my life. Each of them usually has a start and end time. Sometimes the person in charge of the meeting decides they are going to use more time than scheduled—to them, it’s important, and there is plenty of time left in the day.

But, you see, that time doesn’t belong to them. Sometimes the meetings are back-to-back. So if one presenter goes long, they are taking time away from the next presenter, a presenter who was told they were given a certain amount of time, but now won’t have it because someone else took it.
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Published on June 29, 2014 14:28 • 6 views

June 17, 2014

I have this reoccurring dream (nightmare?) where I’m at a school and I’m close to graduating. And then I remember: I have one more class I need to pass in order to be truly finished. In a panic, I realize I haven’t been to this class all semester. I’m not sure where it meets or when. I think that maybe, just maybe, if I take the final and do well on it, I can pass the class.
For giggles, I looked up possible meanings of this dream. The results varied from “The dream often occurs in approximation with having forgotten or being concerned about forgetting to do something important in waking life” to “The dream is a reminder not to miss an opportunity or take a more active role in one's destiny” and even, “A change involving the end of something is imminent and there is low confidence about the future.”
As I thought about it some more, my dreams could mean any of those things. Or perhaps, it is based on reality.
In high school, I was less than a stellar student. I failed some classes—not from being smart enough—but rather from just not attending class. (Those were different days back then.) I had to take several “study-at-home” courses in order to graduate.
In college, I walked through the graduation ceremonies before I actually had finished my degree. True story! You see, I was allowed to do that if the only class I had left was my internship. So, even though I put on my cap and gown in April, I didn’t finish my degree until August.
And now, there is my Master’s degree. I’m done. I’ve earned it. Nothing else has to be completed for me to receive my degree. But wait. As I started looking for possible teaching positions, many of the colleges require me to have 18 credit hours in English. My degree is in Creative Writing. I realized as I finished my MFA I was one class short of having 18 credit hours with the letters ENG before it.
And so, here I am in June 2014 taking one last English class, even though I’m officially done with my degree.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think my real life experiences could have more to do with my reoccurring dreams than my mind trying to remind me to pay the electric bill.
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Published on June 17, 2014 11:02 • 3 views

June 4, 2014

Tonight was a father / daughter activity at church. I have four daughters, and this one was just for my youngest, who is eleven. I’ve gone on a number of these activities over the years, and it is wonderful to have some one-on-one time with a single daughter.
Each of these father / daughter activities has a theme or an event. Years ago, it was around Valentine’s Day so they had a dance. At that time, three of my daughters were in the accepted age group. It was fun to have them stand on my feet while we slowed danced.
A dance wasn’t on the agenda tonight. It is June and so an outside activity was in order. Tonight we were making paper airplanes. At the end, there would be a “friendly” competition.
As a kid, I had made my fair share of paper airplanes, but I was never very good at it. My friends were always coming up with cool and unique designs that could really travel. I had a hard time keeping the folds straight.
So, as we started making the airplanes tonight, I tried—honestly tried—to create one that would fly well. I even followed some instructions the leaders had kindly printed up for us.
Then came the testing phase. It wasn’t pretty. Actually, my daughter’s plane was pretty darn awesome. Mine seemed to really love the ground more than the air. With the competition rapidly approaching, I considered my options. There was no way my paper creation was going to do well.
Then I got an idea. And it was rather clever if I do say so myself. Quickly, I made my paper creation and then got in line to watch the competition and wait for my turn.
On the ground, the leaders had measured out distance markers. Most airplanes were lucky to go eighteen or so feet. Some went longer. One father got up and let his airplane fly. And boy did it ever! It went beyond the farthest marker by a good dozen feet or so. Very impressive!
When it was my turn, I stepped to the line. Trying to ignore the people watching me, I set my feet. In one hand was the first paper airplane I had created—the one that loved the ground. But that isn’t the one I used.
Instead, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my secret weapon. I had taken a sheet of paper and crumpled it up around three small rocks to give it some weight. Without hesitating, I threw my paper airplane (to be honest, it was more of a paper meteor). It flew over all the other contestants and a good ten feet beyond the best throw.

Tada! My paper creation won!
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Published on June 04, 2014 17:59 • 5 views

May 17, 2014

“If the power goes out at school, and remains out for 30 minutes, you have to dismiss school. It’s a state law.” Or so I was told by a tenth grade student. Bless her heart, she is one of those that states her opinions as facts.
I hadn’t heard of this “state law” she claimed to be fact. So, I asked her, “Where did you hear about this state law?” You see, as far as I know, it was up to the discretion of the school district to determine when school was let out due to various reasons.
“It just is,” she said.
“But where did you hear about it?” I asked.
“My friend told me.”
“And where did she hear about it?”
“Look, Mr. Morgan. I trust my friend and so it has to be true.”
And there we have it.
Perhaps it is from my years of working in television, but for whatever reason, I tend to be skeptical of things unless I can verify them from a credible source.
To me, at least, there is a difference between someone having credibility and trusting someone. As the saying goes, “Sincere people can be sincerely wrong.”
The weather is a great example of this. Let’s say my best friend, someone I really trust, tells me it will snow three feet tomorrow. Let’s also say that this same best friend is not a meteorologist, but rather they heard about the snowstorm from someone at work and believed it.
Does it mean I don’t trust my friend if I go to the national weather service website (a credible source) to check what they say about the weather? No, it doesn’t mean that I don’t trust my friend.
All you have to do is turn on the news to see how many people truly, honestly believe in different views—sometimes in direct conflict with another person.
Here’s an example: one person states that the democratic candidate is going to win. A different person states the republican candidate will be the certain victor. They both can’t be right.
In this case, one person is wrong even though they sincerely believe they are right.
If I can be so bold: Before you buy that swamp land in Florida which is guaranteed to triple in value in the next month, or throw out all your food because you heard if it has the letter “e” in its name it is bad for you, do a little digging at other points of view. You may discover that there isn’t enough credible evidence. 
(Side note: this blog is mainly about intellectual ideas. In the matters of religion, I believe the only true credible source is through the Holy Ghost. Meaning, when it comes to religious matters, that should be between you and the Almighty.)  

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Published on May 17, 2014 10:06 • 7 views

May 15, 2014

I have a confession. I’ve not seen the movie Frozen. I’ll admit that I’d probably like it if I saw it. Then why haven’t I? Maybe it’s because everyone else has seen it and can sing the songs from memory. Maybe it’s because when I get the choice to watch Frozenor do something else, the “something else” has always seemed more interesting. Truth is, I’m not sure.

What I do know about myself is that I don’t like musicals, as a general rule. From my point of view, too often the pacing of a musical comes to a screeching halt when the music starts up. Meaning, the songs don’t progress the story.
Out of love for my wife, I watched Phantom of the Opera with her once. I really struggled with it. The music was good. The characters were interesting. The sets were beautiful. But I didn’t like it. How can that be? I don’t recall the specific details, but there was a scene where the characters were basically running for their lives. What would any sane person do in that situation? I can say pretty confidently that they wouldn’t stop to sing about the danger they were in—yet that’s what happened. Ugh.

But this blog isn’t a rant about musicals, believe it or not. In fact, a musical recently helped me realize something pretty wild.
While going to high school in the late 1980’s, there was a musical that was pretty popular called Chess. One of the songs even became a hit on the radio: One Night In Bangkok. I ended up buying the cassette version of the musical and I listened to it over and over.

With the recent advent of digital downloadable music, I was able to find the original soundtrack and buy it online a few days ago. (I could have found it for free, I’m sure, but the author in me wants to have creative people actually get paid for their work.)
I hadn’t listened to Chess for years, yet as the songs began to play, I found that I could sing along. It was trippy to recall lyrics and how they were sang after such a long period.
Around this same time, I was asked to cover a high school math class. I generally shy away from teaching math because while I learned it in school, I simply don’t remember it. Even when I looked at what the students were doing and tried to understand what was going on, it didn’t come back to me nearly as easily as the lyrics and music to Chess.
Why is that?

It’s one of the mysteries of the human brain, I’m sure. I’ll bet there are dozens of studies out there that prove people can recall songs easier than other things. Heck, there may even be some theories on why that is.
Maybe it means the human mind is designed to recall music better than math facts—yet students are required to take more math classes than music classes. Perhaps all the math classes are needed to help people think in a way that doesn’t come as natural as recalling music. Hmmm.
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Published on May 15, 2014 08:10 • 10 views

May 8, 2014

Time for a little quiz. 
You get to be the judge. I’m going to post pictures of three books. 
Without searching for them on the internet, I’m curious to know which book you would be most likely to read.
Are you ready?
Okay, here we go:

Which one did you choose? Or would you choose any of them?
Why do I bring this up?
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to show people the cover of my next book, Bring Down the Rain . (It will most likely be out in July.)

The reaction to the cover has been overwhelmingly positive. Comments have included variations of, “Now that’s a book I’d like to read!” and “Wow! That looks really interesting!” and even “He’s cute! What high school does he go to?”
Interestingly enough, these comments have come without me telling them anything about the book. It’s just from showing people the cover.
Despite the old saying of “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” I think it is human nature to do so. (A more correct statement is “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.)
I was having lunch with my daughter Kelley recently. We talked about she and I being picky eaters. She said something pretty profound: “I’m expanding the types of foods I’ll eat. When I was younger, if something looked yucky, I wouldn’t even try it.”
And it makes sense. Even if you tell me octopus legs are the most delicious things in the world, I just can’t get passed that they look really gross.
Because we, as people, are quick to judge things strictly by appearances, I have made it a point to hire professional graphic designers to make the covers of my books.
As for the three covers listed above, what if I were to tell you that the contents inside were exactly the same. The author just used different titles and covers for the same book. And what if once you got passed the cover, you found that it was the best book you’d ever read.
Of course, we’ll never know because I created three covers for a book that doesn’t exist.
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Published on May 08, 2014 13:51 • 19 views

April 30, 2014

Big news was made this week. An owner of a large sports franchise was banned and fined for using racist remarks which were caught on tape. (I’m going to leave out names because I don’t want to get sued.)
In reading about this story, I, personally, was dismayed that the owner would tell his girlfriend not to take pictures with black people and post them on social media. He also told her not to bring black people to the games.
I applaud that people collectively stood up and said, “This isn’t right. How dare this man make a decision to do something (in this case make racist remarks) that is insensitive to people.”
As more and more people chimed in, it was clear that this owner had crossed a line which our society has determined is wrong. And we, as a society were not going to accept it.
Yet, as I read about this story, I am also dismayed at an aspect which seems to be accepted by the media at large and didn’t cause an outcry.
Keep in mind that the recording that got the owner in trouble was of a conversation between him and his girlfriend. (She’s referred to as his girlfriend in story after story.) And that’s the part of the story that hasn’t generated anywhere close to the amount of outrage as the racist remarks. But why should it?
Simple. The owner is married, and has been married to the same lady for a lot of years.
So, what’s the difference? As far as I know, making racist remarks isn’t illegal. In fact, it is protected under “freedom of speech.” However, the people who became outraged at the owner’s remarks did so because the comments were morally and ethically wrong. And I agree 100%. Racist remarks may be protected by the law, but it doesn’t make them okay.
Cheating on your wife? From what I could find on the subject, adultery is illegal in roughly 20 states in the USA. But more than that, when people get married they make vows to be faithful. I would say that breaking those vows is also morally and ethically wrong.
In the end, I find it interesting, and somewhat disturbing, 
how society is selective in its outrage.
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Published on April 30, 2014 08:12 • 7 views

April 24, 2014

There are a lot of motivational sayings intended to inspire people to keep trying, even when things get hard. After all, it takes hard work to accomplish something worthwhile, right?

Here are some inspiring sayings I found about not quitting:

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.--Vince Lombardi”

“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride - and never quit, you'll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.--Paul Bryant”

“Defeat doesn't finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he's defeated. He's finished when he quits.--Richard M. Nixon”

There are some other quotes on the subject that take a bit of a different spin on the subject.

“If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a fool about it.--W. C. Fields”

“I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.--Henny Youngman”

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.--Albert Einstein”

I’ve wondered time and again if refusing to quit and having the courage to walk away are opposites. My conclusion? It’s not that simple. Let me give you an example.

I studied hard to get my degree in communications. I wanted to be a TV director. While going to BYU, I had access to the control room of the TV station. Between classes while we were off the air, I would sit down at the video switcher and practice, and practice, and practice some more.

I worked my way up in the field to where I became the Operations Manager at a 24 hour news station in the New York City market. This may sound boastful, but I became a really good director, mainly due to all of the hard work I put in.

And then, I walked away from it.

Why? I realized that the working environment was changing me. I became more cynical, more jaded, and more frustrated. I didn’t like who I was becoming, so I quit and walked away. (Other reasons included not being able to keep commitments to my family or church because breaking news always came first and also because TV news continued to become more sensational.)

So, according to the quotes at the beginning, I quit, therefore I’m not a winner. Or am I?

I decided to do something else. I wrote books. I went back to school to get my Master’s degree. I took a job as a substitute teacher. I might end up teaching at the college level or maybe even high school one day. There are all sorts of possibilities.

Now, with five novels out, and the sixth on the way, I wonder if I’m making the right choice. After all, writing is a lot of hard work. It takes time, and there is no guarantee that all my hard work will pay off.

To be fair, I’ve done pretty well. My books have gotten overall positive reviews and I’ve sold more copies than I ever imagined—but I could always sell more.

Like most writers, I have those moments of “Is what I’m writing any good? Does anyone want to read this?” And that’s when I choose not to quit.

Choosing not to quit writing and quitting TV are different to me. One of these activities is helping me become the person I want to be, while the other was tearing me down.

And that’s the difference then, isn’t it. Quitting isn’t bad if you are quitting something bad.

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Published on April 24, 2014 08:40 • 15 views

April 18, 2014

A student once told me, “I got a problem with you. You got me suspended.” (For the sake of playing it safe, I’m not going to share his name or what he did. But trust me, it was bad enough to get suspended.)
My response? “It wasn’t me that got you suspended, it was your actions.”
He stared at me like that was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. He came back with the reply of, “But had you not told nobody, I wouldn’t have got in trouble.”
As the conversation went on, he kept trying to convince me that the suspension was my fault. He used every bit of logic he could muster. One of his better lines was, “If no one else in the class has a problem with it, why do you?”
I answered, “Because as the teacher, my job is to enforce school policy.”
Why do I bring this up? I was sent a link to a video called “Anti-homosexual gibberish.” Basically, the creator of the video wanted to use logic to defend his point of view. (Note! I’m not trying to cause a fight over what is right or wrong with homosexuality—if you can’t get passed that idea, stop reading now.)
I was fascinated by how many people congratulated him for using reason to make his point. To me, the most accurate part of the title was “gibberish”—specifically with the logic he was using.
If you want, you can watch the video here:

As I thought about his “arguments,” I realized that the same logic could be applied to several other things. In fact, that is exactly what I decided to do.
Again, if you are easily offended or think all I’m trying to do is bash homosexuals, you haven’t been paying attention. I’m trying to show flaws in his logic, not his subject matter. My video can be watched here:

If you watched both videos, you’ll notice I omitted a part in mine. It’s the part where he tries to use logic that just because homosexuality is okay doesn’t mean every sort of sexual relationship is okay. I agree with that point. But to those trying to convince your cause is right, stop using “Equality For All” as a slogan—because “All” means everyone, even those you do not agree with.
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Published on April 18, 2014 20:37 • 14 views

April 3, 2014

I want to publicly express my appreciation for a truly remarkable man. His name is Carl Chester Jamalkowski, or as I call him, “Papa J.” 
Technically, he’s my father-in-law, though he will always be a father figure to me.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Papa J is the importance of family. Here is a man who worked the graveyard shift at Attica Prison for almost 30 years. As I understand it, he took the overnight shift because it paid better, so he could provide for his family.
My wife tells stories of how he would be there for them in the mornings, often making breakfast for them after he got home from work. The way she tells the story with such fondness indicates to me it wasn’t really about the breakfast, it was about showing love to his family.
As I got to know him, it became clear to me that he was extremely smart. He taught me how to play different card games and rarely was I able to best him. “Hasenpfeffer” was a family favorite card game. My dyslexic mind often confused “spades” with “clubs,” so to keep them straight, I’d called them “shovels” and “clovers” which seemed to amuse Papa J to no end.
I’m not a short person. At 6’3” I’m often the tallest person in the room. Consider then that Papa J was taller than me and had more muscle in one of his arms than I had in my whole body. When he told me he loved his baby girl and made sure I knew the consequences if I mistreated her, I took him seriously.
I’ll admit that for the first few months I got to know him, I was scared to death. Yet over time, I realized he had a heart of gold. He loved to collect things, thinking of ways to give them to others to help them out.
It seemed to me that Papa J and Mama J had a wonderful symbiotic relationship. She loved to cook, and he loved to eat. I can’t count the times we’d be in the middle of a meal, and he’d say, “Rose, you know what would be good for dinner tomorrow?” And then he’d say what he was in the mood for. Mama J would playfully roll her eyes and say, “Carl, let’s finish eating this meal first!”
Because Papa J worked for so many years during the graveyard shift, even after he retired, he tended to stay up late. It seemed like no time was a bad time to make a pizza—something he made often and was quite delicious.
I had the chance to live with Mama and Papa J while doing my internship in Buffalo for six weeks. It was late spring so Papa J and I would watch a lot of the NBA playoffs together. Being on the east coast meant some of the games would run late, but it was never so late that he wasn’t willing to make a pizza as the games were on.
A skill that my wife inherited from Papa J was being able to spot a bargain. One of the things that could get Papa J up early was the prospect of going to garage sales, also known as “tag” sales. I had a chance to go with him a few times during my internship. It never ceased to amaze me how he was able to “negotiate” with someone until the price was right.
Later in his life, he and Mama J made the move from the Buffalo area to Utah. My wife’s older sister, Lora, and her husband, George, went above and beyond by taking them in and creating a place for them to live.
Papa J passed away on April 3, 2014 at home with loved ones by his side. While his spirit may have left this earth, his family legacy will remain.   
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Published on April 03, 2014 12:13 • 16 views