Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Top Ten List on Chad and Shelly

In Letterman style. Here we go... the top 10 reasons why Chad and Shelly are the coolest people you'll ever meet.

10. Craziness. Conversations on Twitter somehow lead to pictures of this:

James, Chad, Jeigh, Tyler x 2, and Shelly
9. Sarcasm! They'll be sure to rib you when you've got your blog up for two seconds and they happen to stop by during the design process:

Shelly was my first follower on this blog, and I've always appreciated her support. It helps when we are both so fluent in Sarcasm.

8. Hero! The first time I met Shelly, she looked like this:

She shaved off all her hair to benefit her cousin, Tyson, who has leukemia. Seriously, I could just stop here at number 8 and you'd understand why I hero-worship these two, but there is more!

7. Honesty! When I need honest feedback, I know I can always go to Shelly. She doesn't sugar-coat it.

6. Family! I met Chad about a year after meeting Shelly, as he started writing and releasing his books. Have you ever met that one couple that seemed like they were meant for each other? Like, Westley and Buttercup would look at it and say, "Wow, maybe we aren't so awesome together after all." Well, this is how I feel when I see Chad and Shelly. Not just their marriage, but their family.

While visiting their home, I got to meet their kids. Talk about an amazing family! True story: some cards came out and we started trying to out-wit each other with card tricks and the like. I can't remember the final score, but it resembled the score from the last Superbowl (43 - 8). No matter what I tried, I could not figure out a way to outsmart them. Not just that, all five of their kids are just awesome, smart, and super-creative geniuses that were a pleasure to be around.

There is also this special spirit whenever I'm around their family. One time they were singing while I was in the other room, and I thought I was going to walk in and see the Van Trapp family singing.

Such an amazing family!

5. Chad! Meeting Chad made me feel like I found a brother my parents had secretly put up for adoption or something. It's impossible to get within a 50-foot radius of Chad without feeling better about life. He just has that... aura. Seriously, meet the guy, you'll instantly know what I mean.

4. Humor! If you can last five minutes around this family without laughing, I'd be convinced you're a robot. These guys are hilarious! If you've seen them do  scripted stand-up, you'll see the hilarity right away, but even unscripted, it is one hilarious line after another. Chad and Shelly SLAY me.

Check out this video for Chad's latest book, The Avatar Battle. Yes, he is this funny all of the time!

3. Writers! We met through the writing community (side note: I doubt any writing community outside of Salt Lake has any kind of bonding like our local writers), and both of them are awesome writers. I've read one of Shelly's books, and I can't wait until she releases something so the world can enjoy it. Chad has released two books, both in the Cragbridge Hall series.

For now, I haven't had a chance to read The Avatar Battle, but I was BLOWN AWAY by The Inventor's Secret. I didn't know what to expect, but I must admit that I haven't been excited for middle grade lately and I wasn't ubber excited to pick it up. However, Gragbridge Hall? It's got me excited again. Seriously, everybody should own 9 or 10 copies of it.

And you've got to check out this book video! Why hasn't this book been turned into a movie yet?

The literary world is blessed that these two authors contributing books. I bet future releases are only going to get better.

2. Mustaches for Maddie! When The Inventor's Secret came out, Chad and Shelly's daughter, Maddie, was rushed to the hospital for an emergency operation. This prevented Chad from going on tour for his newly released book. Knowing Chad, I'm sure he didn't even have to weigh whether or not he should go or not, he stayed with Maddie until she made her recovery.

Once wind got out of this operation, people started sending in tons (hundreds? I'm guessing thousands?) of pictures of people in mustaches. Maddie always got cheered up looking at mustaches, and everybody who knew the Morris' delivered. Google it, I really hope somebody compiled all of them together, it would make a great keepsake for Maddie and an entertaining lookthrough for everybody else!

Here's their friend, Tyler Whitesides, getting in on the action:

1. Caring! The reason Chad and Shelly are so easy to love is because they exemplify charity in all that they do. They are truly one of the most caring people you will ever meet, who would give the shirt off their backs to help somebody in need. If the world were filled with Chads and Shellys, life would be a hundred times better to live.

To learn more about these two amazing folks, check out their blog at Chad is going on tour because of The Avatar Battles, so check out his schedule and see if he'll be in your neighborhood. You won't want to miss him!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Andrea Pearson's New Website

A while ago, I had Andrea Pearson on this blog when she released Keys to Kilenya. She just relaunched her website, and I was so impressed I just had to share (no, she doesn't know I'm doing this, nor did she ask that I do this):

What impresses me is that she built it from scratch. I consider myself a computer expert, but even I just played around with blogger and WordPress. Kudos for taking control, Andrea!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Feel Good Friday: March 7, 2014

Disclaimer: I rarely talk about religion, but the video below has prompted me to get a little personal. And probably even preachy. While I quote and use religious examples, I personally feel that anybody can find a measure of joy, peace, and happiness from this post.

On Forgiveness

Several years ago, I lent a lot of money to a "friend" and after a few years of trying to get it back, it became apparent that I would never see a single red cent. I felt completely wronged by the situation and, mostly because of human nature, I got extremely bitter.

This anger lasted for years. If I even met somebody with that person's name, I instantly disliked him. When something would trigger the memory, I'd be in a bad mood for days, vowing to hold onto this grudge until I received proper compensation.

As a Christian, I struggled to understand why Christ taught us to forgive and love our enemies. I felt like I was a forgiving person, and would promptly forgive right after the apology. I was at least entitled to that much, right? Imagine my surprise when Christ taught us to forgive, regardless if the apology came or not:
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate youBless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again .But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. - Luke 6: 27 - 36 (emphasis added)
Peter asked Jesus how often forgiveness should be given. After all, forgiving others is a great virtue, but there must come a time when enough is enough, right? But Christ taught:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me,and I forgive him? till seven times?Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy time seven.- Matthew 18: 21 - 22 (emphasis added)
My understanding is that seventy times seven does not mean you don't have to forgive 490 times. Seventy times seven is allegorical to saying unlimited. So, here Christ teaches us to forgive no matter how many times you are wronged.

To drive the point home, Jesus practiced what He taught. As He hung from the cross at the threshold of death, this was recorded as he looked upon the Roman soldiers:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them... - Luke 23: 46

Why Forgive?

In Luke, it says that loving your enemy will return you great rewards. It doesn't say immediate blessings, so I've always assumed those rewards would come in the afterlife. However, there are some immediate blessings for those willing to forgive and love their enemies.

After seeing the destruction my feelings toward this "friend" was doing to my soul and the relationships I had in my life, I decided to forgive him, without reservation. It wasn't easy, after all, one does not cleanse oneself of years of poison with one treatment. It took a lot of scripture reading, prayer, and pondering, but one day I found that all of the contention and hatred in my heart left, allowing room for peace and an added measure of love to move into its place. I no longer let the situation decay me, and I believe I'm a better person for it. It has also built my faith in my Heavenly Father and that his commandments are meant to give us joy and growth.

Holding on to anger and resentment is a burden, while forgiveness leads to healing, joy, and love. Forgiving others does not validate their behavior, but it does prevent the potential destruction it can do to your soul. I'm reminded of a saying, usually attributed (incorrectly, apparently) to the Buddha:
Holing onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. - Anonymous

Other Examples

I'm amazed at the forgiveness of Pope John-Paul II gave after getting show four times in his 1981 attempted assassination. However, the Pope asked people to pray for and forgive his attacker. When The Pope died in 2005, it is reported that the attacker and his family wept in mourning over his death. Personally, I find this a testament to a man of high character and strength.

There is a movie called Amish Grace, based on true-life events. It depicts how Charles Roberts went into an Amish community and shot 10 young women, killing 5 of them. A few hours later, some members of that community went to the wife of Charles Roberts and told her that they forgave Charles and they held no animosity against her family. This didn't happen years later. Not even months or a few days, but the afternoon of the shooting! Obviously, it didn't bring those girls back--what would?--but it started the healing process. Not only that, it has made me love and respect the Amish community for giving us a clear example of honestly forgiving those who do harm to you immediately.

Feel Good Friday

So, today's feel good comes from Jon Stewart. He is interviewing an amazing girl who shows love towards those who shot her in the face--almost killing her. It is amazing, and it even leaves Jon Stewart briefly stunned and speechless.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Twist of Luck by Jaclyn Weist Blog Tour

Twist of Luck Blog Tour

Every day a different blog will post a question. When you find the answer, send an email to me at:

I will draw a winner each day from those that got it correct. You can find the answers on Wikipedia.

The answers will also be posted the next day on the next post in the tour, along with the next trivia question. Some questions deal with colors of the rainbow. Other questions deal with leprechauns. 

And, of course, at the end of the rainbow, there's a pot of gold. In that pot of gold will be an Amazon gift card! Those that answer questions by sending me an email will be entered to win the gift card on the last day.

And don't forget to purchase a copy of book one, Stolen Luck. The great news is that it's $.99 right now! That link is here

Good luck!!

Yesterday's Answer:

Imps crave attention from humans. They attempt to gain it by pulling pranks. If only that's all this imp was guilty of...

Today's Question:

What is my favorite color? Hint: It's a primary color and it's not red or blue. 

The Prize:

$5 gift card to Amazon
(That's as good as cash, folks!) 

About Twist of Luck: 

Megan finally has her luck back and hopes that life will return to normal. Unfortunately, the magical world has other plans. Suddenly, she find she has fairies following her to provide security, dragons become a constant threat, and an imp tracks her every move. As if that wasn’t enough, her luck begins to manifest itself in ways she could never imagine.

About Jaclyn:

Jaclyn is an Idaho farm girl who grew up loving to read. She developed a love for writing as a senior in high school, when her dad jokingly said she was the next Dr. Seuss (not even close but very sweet). She met her husband, Steve at BYU and they have six happy, crazy children that encourage her writing. After owning a bookstore and running away to have adventures in Australia, they settled back down in their home in Utah. Jaclyn now spends her days herding her kids to various activities and trying to remember what she was supposed to do next.

Find the answer and the next question at:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why Math?

I know, this is a writing blog. So what does math have to do with writing? Well... nothing, but I do have other passions other than writing and math is one of them. So, here goes.

Earlier, I saw this on Facebook:

This is common core:

The point? Common core math is more complicated than what I grew up with. However, I didn't feel like I was getting the full story. How as this explained to the students? I suspect if we found out, this would make more sense. I looked it over for about ten minutes and I finally understood what the method used to get that answer. I also glanced at the original post, which had over 13,000 comments, mostly about how this looks so confusing and complicated.

Okay, where to begin?

First, they chose a simple problem. What if it was 32-19? Suddenly it isn't so easy anymore. The way I was taught was with borrowing from other digits and crossing stuff off until you got an answer using almost as many steps as the supposed common core example had. It looked like this:

I know, my handwriting in MSPaint is horrendous
Then I noticed several comments about how this ISN'T actually common core, but that's okay, this isn't a post about common core. I want to answer the time-aged question that has been asked in every single math class ever taught:

Why Do I Need to Learn This?

Take this little comic:

Here's why this kid isn't getting it: It isn't about the answers, it's about the process. It's isn't knowing that the answer to 32 - 19 is 13, it's knowing WHY it is 13 and how to get there.

When I see 32 - 19, I see something else. My mind works like this:

"Wow, that number doesn't look like fun. However, 19 is actually 20 minus 1. So, if I do 32 - (20 - 1), I'll get the same answer. This works out to be 32 - 20 + 1. 32 - 20 is easy, it's 12, and then I add that 1 back in there, so the answer is 13."

My mind wasn't born like this, it only does this because I've learned to look for patterns. Let's take another example: 25 x 26. Here is how we are taught to do it:

Sorry, MSPaint handwriting still sucks
That's a lot of steps. In my mind, I do this:

Yeah, not getting any better.
A quick explanation:

26 is 25 + 1. Now, I know that 25 times 25 is 625... I've got that memorized, but I've never memorized 25 x 26, nor do I really need to. So, I square the 25 to get the 625 and then I add one more 25 (the 1 times the 25) for an easy 650.

I know, I know, if you haven't memorized that 25 squared is 625, then you won't get there as fast. If you've done enough math, 25 x 25 just becomes something you remember. It just takes practice.

Quick, do 12 x 13 in your head. Personally, I repeated the above (12 x 12 is 144, add one more 12, and that's 156), but this guy has another method, which he demonstrates in this video. He found a pattern, and with this pattern he is able to do it in his head. Yeah, he takes two minutes to explain it, but if you asked him what 13 x 16 was, he'll have an answer for you instantly.

How about 996 x 997? Quick, do it in your head. Can't? Okay, write it out on paper like we learned in math class. Oh, wait... that's a lot of work too as you need to multiply three different numbers, add zeroes in the right places, and then add them up. Fine, reach for the calculator.

No, no wait!!!

Watch this video, it points out the pattern and the method so you can do it in your head as well. He taught an audience of teenagers how to calculate 996 x 997 in their heads within FOUR MINUTES. Less than two minutes later, the entire audience calculated that 103 x 103 was 10609. All in their heads. Instantly. These kids were all laughing at the simplicity of it.

Will I Use This?

I've graduated from high school and college and I've never needed to figure out something with x's and y's. However, as a programmer, I've used variables like numberOfYears or quantitySold, which is really just x's and y's. The important thing was knowing how to use these variables so my programs could derive usable information.

Okay, that might not apply to you. However, we all want to manage our money, right? Balancing the checkbook, finding the right investment/retirement plan, getting the best car loan, choosing the right mortgage, knowing why playing the lottery is considered a tax on people who don't know math, and more become simple when you know how all the numbers and variables work together. Sadly, when the math does get complicated, most people aren't sure what order to put the variables into a calculator for the right answer.

I can't stress this enough: it's NOT about the answer, it's knowing how to get there.

Let's demonstrate with somebody who recognizes these patterns. Check out this video, and prepare to be amazed.

If I figured out what patterns he's using, I'm sure I could do this as well--I just have better things to do with my time. But anybody willing to figure out the methods, do the homework, and plant the patterns in their head can do it as well.

Yes, math is busy work. We've all done what felt like the same math problem hundreds of times, but this effort actually builds a type of muscle memory with math. Then you can do this too.

It's like Michael Jordan. He made playing basketball look easy, like all he has to do was throw the ball in the air and it would go through the hoop--most of the time. It's like he was born with it. Well, he wasn't. In high school, he was cut from his basketball team, but he didn't give up. He practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And when he got sick of practicing, he practiced some more.

Arthur Benjamin makes math look easy, but I'm sure it isn't because he was born able to do complicated math. It's because he put in the practice.

Once that muscle memory is put in place, when you look at 32 - 20 or 32 - 19 or 25 x 26, patterns kick in and math is done MUCH faster than grabbing a calculator, turning it on, hitting the MC and MR buttons a bunch of times (admit it, we all do it), and punching in the equation.

This is why I wondered what was being taught in that first graphic. Best I can tell, this is an advanced version of counting on your fingers, but there might be something else in there. I've got a pattern to do it, but there is more than one way to kill a cat. So, my pattern might not work for some people while this might make sense to them if it is properly explained to them. I didn't want to instantly dismiss it just because it took a few lines to figure it out, my first thought was, "Why are they taking this route, and can I learn something from it?"

(To be honest, I think this was just another post to complain about common core)

Math Matters

Math is everywhere.

An example I used last week: Salt Lake City airport is 300 miles away, I average 75 when I drive on the freeway, so if I need to get there by 3:30pm to pick my friend up from the airport, I better leave by 11:30am and use the restroom before I go.

Another example: I got a call from a bank on Saturday offering to lower my monthly payments, but when I did the math I realized that the long-term costs far outweighed the short-term benefits. Math, and knowing how to use that math, helped me avoid a huge financial mistake.

Another example from a few months ago: A cashier asked for $2.76, so I handed over $3.01 to simplify the change. What does the cashier do? She reaches for the calculator!! Now, I'm not a violent person, but I almost became one after I informed her the change was a quarter and then she looked like I was nuts and typed it in her calculator to prove me wrong. Imagine her shock when .25 turned out to be the answer.

Do you like living in houses? I do!! However, they wouldn't be very livable if your builder sucked at math. When you look at everything that goes into building houses, cars, bridges, roads, and other things we take for granted in life, a ton of math was involved to make them come to fruition.

I mentioned Michael Jordan above. Math is used in sports. What trajectory should MJ throw the ball, or which trajectory should he jump to maximize his slam dunk? How much force should be applied? How does this change based on his position on the basketball court? How many more points are needed to get a comfortable lead? It's all math.

And music is all math. I've heard that musicians tend to pick up math easier, and I think it's because they recognize the mathematical patterns found in music and apply them to algebraic equations. Yes, the muscle memory formed in music translates to mathematics.

Not to mention, math is fun. Here is Arthur Benjamin again, who just made me geek out over numbers all over again.