Friday, May 10, 2013

Bury the "Testimony"

Hey Mormon Folks:

Let's make our testimony meetings better. I mean, it's a pretty good meeting, but I think it could be a blow the doors off the building, waters rushing, full-on pentecostal feast month in and month out with a few small changes.

Here are my suggested rules:

1. Bishopric member why are you taking so long? We don't need a complete story about your week and the things you were reflecting upon while you knew you were going to be giving the testimony. You have a lot of chances to give sermons. You can expound on the scriptures another time. Here, keep it short and sweet. In fact, if you're not feeling moved by the Spirit to bear testimony, I don't think there would be anything wrong with skipping it altogether and saying, "We will now open the meeting for testimonies..." and sitting down.

2. Which brings us nicely to the next point: We have three or more meetings a month for talks and only one for testimonies. Please know the difference. Want to hear an explanation from someone with a really imposing voice and brow? Great. Enter Elder Oaks.

"A testimony of the gospel is a personal witness borne to our souls by the Holy Ghost that certain facts of eternal significance are true and that we know them to be true. Such facts include the nature of the Godhead and our relationship to its three members, the effectiveness of the Atonement, and the reality of the Restoration.

"A testimony of the gospel is not a travelogue, a health log, or an expression of love for family members. It is not a sermon. President Kimball taught that the moment we begin preaching to others, our testimony is ended." 1
3. Share what the people need, not what you want. You might be thinking, "But I really do love my wife and that's important!" I'm not disagreeing. I think that's great and you should tell her later. If family is what is really in your heart during testimony meeting, how about instead of talking about your family you talk about generally true principles. Like, "I know families are an essential part of God's plan. I know we are all a part of the divine family. And I know that through the atonement of Jesus Christ we can be with our families forever." (Do you see how that is more helpful to the spirit of the meeting than, "I love my wife. I'm so grateful she married me and that I can be with her forever..."?)

You might also be thinking, "But I did have this really great experience on my church history tour and I feel like I should tell the ward about it!" I would respond, by suggesting that we don't need the whole story. It won't be the same for us anyway because we weren't there. So instead of: "This last summer me and the family had a chance to take a trip to Illinois where we were able to see Carthage jail... the tour guide took us through and showed us the... and my son said... and before we left... and I had the most powerful feeling that Joseph Smith was a prophet..." You could just say, "I stood in Carthage Jail and the Spirit testified to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God."

4. We know you're nervous and/or your heart was beating so fast. You don't need to bring it up. Also, we assume that you felt prompted to say something, so you can skip that too. Just say what you need to say and don't tell us about the ordeal of saying it.

5. You don't need a special insight or original material. One time I encouraged a young man to bear his testimony. He turned to me and whispered, "But I don't have anything to say besides the basics." I wanted to cry.

I would submit that if your material is original, it's probably inappropriate to share in this meeting. This meetings is all about the basics. God. The Atonement. Prayer. Scriptures. Repentance. Love. Etc.

 6. Don't force it. Sometimes I hear people say, "Well, I don't have much to say but I couldn't stand the silence." I would rather let the Holy Ghost fill the time and maybe two minutes of silence is just what the congregation needed. (Which might be why no one was feeling prompted to stand up and share.)

7. No more testimony ventriloquism please. A testimony is to "know and declare." I don't think that threshold is met when a parent is whispering lines to her six year old. If your kid does have a testimony and he wants to share, then he should be able to walk up the stand and do it. If not, let them share during family home evening or in primary opening exercises.

So those are the rules, just off the top of my head. I think they are wise. But if anyone would like more convincing, I would submit this short video:

Thank you for your time.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Archeologists Reveal Bob Hope was Possibly Comedian

Los Angeles--A team of archeologists from U.C.L.A., U.C. Berkley, and Columbia University have made a startling discovery: Figure Bob Hope might have been used by early 20th century Americans for comedy. "It's groundbreaking," says Dr. Marvin Hastings, lead archeologist on the project. "Something like this comes along and completely runs against our convention understanding of what Bob Hope was."

For decades that conventional wisdom said the Bob Hope was notable for being the nation's most flamboyant and richest drill sergeant, and there are some in the archeological community who aren't ready to give up on that theory yet. "If you look at the weight of evidence," says Albert Grable, a historian who has written two books about Bob Hope, "it's hard to say this man wasn't a very wealthy, Liberace-like sergeant, colonel or something between a corporal and general in the early U.S. Army."

Grable points to the dozens of daguerreotypes and early drawings that show hope sashaying in front of hundreds of troops, or threatening troops with golf clubs and pipes. "These pictures are worth thousands of words. What else is there to say, really?" Grable asks.

Hastings answers there is plenty else to say. "The pictures certainly suggest one explanation, but they are only a part of our data." For instance, he points to records found in old U.S. archives that say Bob Hope's appearance before troops was often scheduled as "USO Comedy Review with Bob Hope." Also, Hastings's team discovered letters written by long-dead service men who mentioned seeing a comedian on days when the Bob Hope was in camp. "These [written records] provide a more complete picture," says Hastings. "We're not saying Bob Hope wasn't a flamboyant, Thurston Howellian military figure. He might have been. But we know from other records that people at the time described him primarily as a comedic figure." And Hastings's team believes that evidence is strong enough to be definitive. 

Despite differences of opinion, there is one area where all experts are in agreement. "Of course, what's still missing is an example of a Bob Hope joke," Hastings concedes. Gable adds, "If he was a known comedian, how come no one has ever come up with an example of him saying something particularly funny?"

It seems there is still some work for archeologists to do before modern-day people know what Bob Hope really was or how he was used.

Monday, February 11, 2013



Hello, my name is Thomas Staker. 
I am a big baby.
How do you do?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Turn of the Screwed

In my long tradition of providing edgy material nobody asked for, I liked this article by Bryan Goldberg. Not sure I agree with all of the conclusions, but there is some serious fodder in the premises. (You can read the whole thing, unedited, over here:

connect dots

Hey kids, you’ve all read “The Hunger Games,” right? Almost all young people have read the best-selling books or seen the Hollywood movie about Katniss Everdeen, a smart and ambitious young lady whose life prospects are diminished by historical events that predate her. What little hope she has is seemingly reduced to nil when a bunch of old people drop her into an arena and force her to fight with her fellow children in a battle royale to the death.

But that’s just fiction, right? Your loving parents and grandparents would never screw up their world and then throw you kids under the bus…or would they?

Actually, they already have.

Last week, the economics blog Calculated Risk ran a chart that tells a pretty compelling story. To an economist, this chart means that the magnitude and duration of the 2007 recession’s impact on unemployment outpaces that of any prior post-war recession. To young people, it simply means this…

You kids are screwed.

In fact, teenagers today probably aren’t old enough to remember the “Dot Bomb” recession of twelve years ago. But even at its peak, that really bad recession did not reach a level of unemployment that matched the one we are still currently experiencing. With the Federal Reserve losing its appetite for quantitative easing, the last bullet in their holster, and both political parties deciding to half-@$$ the fiscal policy debate, it’s safe to say that…

You kids are really screwed.

As mentioned in one of my recent articles, unemployment for young people is about double the national average. Student debt is now the single largest contributor to the nation’s credit delinquencies. And it’s one of the few debts that you can never expunge through bankruptcy. Stated differently…

You kids are so unbelievably screwed.

Finally, young people need to understand how much their grandparents’ generation has ruined things for them. The average American retires with less than $70,000 in savings, but an elderly man and woman receive about $275,000 in medical care during that time — and you kids are paying for it by inheriting trillions upon trillions in Medicare bills that granny and grandpa never intended to pay and will be too dead to worry about soon. And you California kids can thank them for passing Proposition 13 and Proposition 30, which relieved them of having to pay taxes in favor of you having to pay even more taxes. In other words…

You kids are beyond screwed.

But there’s some good news in all of this. Some of us have already been through this “Hunger Games” melee, and we can serve as your Haymitch Abernathy — you know, the drunk, ranting mentor who teaches Katniss how to survive the great battle that awaits her.
So here are a few pieces of advice for how to navigate this terrifying world:

Lesson No. 1: In 2007, the first thing to go was the BS. So you better learn how to make something.

diploma snowflake

There’s a reason why unemployment is still very high, even though corporations are making record profits. It’s because after they were forced to cut about 10 percent of their workforces, many of them realized that, well, they never needed that many people to begin with.

Companies cut out the BS. And, unfortunately, many of the cerebral jobs that were going to ambitious young people were right in the thick of it. This included young lawyers, who pretty much can’t get jobs right now. This included young people in marketing and finance, two departments that do not bring in revenue or keep the factories running.

But guess what isn’t BS… making things. There are millions of unfilled jobs in America, and most of them are careers where you actually have to make and build stuff. If you grew up in an affluent environment, then you see your software engineer friends getting jobs easily. But it’s not just them. There are countless labor jobs — everything from HVAC to plumbing — that still pay big dollars. But rich kids don’t even know what those jobs entail.

My advice to young people is to figure out how to make something. That means either working with your hands, or learning how to type code with them.

Which brings me to the next lesson…

Lesson No. 2: No, education is not the answer.

If you can get into an ultra-top-tier college, then go ahead and do it. An Ivy League degree is worth getting, at least for undergrad. The value of a law or business degree is becoming more and more questionable each year.

But for the rest of you, it may be worth skipping college altogether.

The world doesn’t need any more girls with Spanish degrees from California State, Long Beach. Sorry, but it just doesn’t. We need you gals to learn how to build software in equal number with your male peers. They are no smarter than you, and they are definitely way less organized and far less attentive to detail. So go show them what you are made of.

But won’t a college degree pay for itself? It probably won’t. According to UC Berkeley’s website, a four year education will cost you $210,000 in tuition and living expenses, and a private education could run you way more. A part-time job at Starbucks will eat into very little of that sum, and you will be forgoing a real job during that same time. And — if I can convey just one point in this whole article, let it be this…saving money takes forever. Even if you do get that coveted six-figure job, you will find that it takes forever to save $210,000. Decades even.

Buy a few O’Reilly books — it will run you about 60 bucks. Go find a few software engineer friends and ask them to help you. Nerds are friendly and altruistic. And software code is no more boring and no more cryptic than learning how to conjugate your Spanish gerunds. Who knows, you may even have what it takes to start a company, but even if you don’t, you can get some valuable equity along the way.

Lesson No. 3: Your parents and grandparents don’t understand your world. You should probably ignore them.

mult choice

Your parents and grandparents want what is best for you. But they do not understand your world in the slightest. You should probably ignore them.

They grew up in a world so unbelievably different from your own, that they couldn’t possibly understand what things are like for you. They don’t know what it is like to fight hard for an unpaid internship. They don’t know what it’s like to watch entire career paths suddenly disappear or become far less desirable: like Journalism, Medicine, and Law. In their day, getting a job in Medicine or Law was a ticket to prosperity. And newspapers actually hired people.

Parents and grandparents don’t understand the extent to which careers need to evolve in the modern day. No longer can you get a job at some company and expect to stay there for three decades. What you do for a living may not even exist in ten years.

Every young person is an entrepreneur now, in one way or another — they must forge their own unique career path, and they need to think five or 10 years ahead. There is no rulebook anymore for how to build a career. Certainly not the one your parents read in 1981.

In summary, the “conventional path” has become so narrow, that it hardly even exists. You can’t just go to grad school and “become” anything: a lawyer, a banker, a doctor, a journalist, a manager. Some of these jobs are on hiring freezes, and some of them are so fraught with frustration that they are best avoided. I don’t know a single doctor who thinks that Medicine is the best career path for their kids. And the same logic is applying to more and more professions. The well has been poisoned.

Lesson No. 4: Don’t worry about your network. Worry about your friends.    

If you have successful friends, you will be successful. It’s pretty much that simple. If you hang out with a bunch of losers, you too will adopt their loser ways and not achieve anything. Regardless of whether or not you go out and network, please make sure that your friends are ambitious and hard working people who you admire.

For some, this means that they will have to move on from their high school buddies. For others, it means that they will need to have friends who are older than they are. Some people will have to learn new skills in order to penetrate the friend groups that they would like to join.

But if you hang out with quality people, you won’t need to worry about networking. Your friends will be your network. The only reason you are reading this article is because Sarah Lacy has a lot of friends who are very high quality, and they not only supported her PandoDaily ambition, but also put money into it. And even though she is nobody, she does have quality friends.

It works. I’ve seen it work innumerable times. Your friends bring you up or pull you down. There’s no in-between. Make sure they are pulling you up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back That Up

Do you want to know what rock and roll is all about? (Duh, you do.) Then listen to the drums on this Elvis Costello song: No Action (Early Version)

What's so rock and roll about the drums here? They are excessive, but not complicated. They aren't listening to you. They are doing their own thing. You can't stop them. You don't even want to stop them. 

I hate to even share this via the web, since you'll likely listen to it on a laptop or an iphone with puny  speakers, but since so few people come to my house or car, this is really the only place where I can share it.

Anyway, maybe you could at least turn up the volume--you are learning about rock and roll after all. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

For all the Ladies on the Web

Ladies, I've lived among men for thirty-two years. I've seen them when you aren't around. I've learned some things and I'm willing to share with you.

Click below for details. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back That Up

Shhhh. Don't speak while Tom is speaking.