Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Easter Eggs

Yesterday, I read this blog post by a blogger (@Ta_RynRyn) in, I believe, South Africa (though that’s really immaterial to the topic), and she commented on Easter Eggs.

When you’re on an easter egg hunt, you walk along the lawn, and you glance at the bushes and you see a splash of color. You lean down and pick it up. Maybe it’s a colored egg, a real one, that’s been hard-boiled. Yum! A little salt and pepper and you’ve got breakfast. Maybe it’s a plastic one. You crack it open, and there you see a piece of candy or a dollar. Woo Hoo!

In life, there are easter eggs, too. You’re going along your “normal” life, working, caring for kids, or whatever you do, and something a little bit different happens. Maybe you planned it, maybe you didn’t. But it’s nice, and when you open it up, there’s something sweet.

I’m not talking about the landmark events that change the course of your life. These are wonderful, and powerful. For me, these are things like my wedding day, the birth of each of my children, serving a mission for my church, buying a new house, etc...

These are smaller things that enrich your life, that remind me that I have a life, and it’s a wonderful life.

I made a list, and this is not in any order, and if I were to make the list on a different day, it would probably have other items, and maybe more of them.

Jodi and I traveling to Yellowstone

Early in our marriage, Jodi and I planned a trip, by ourselves, to Yellowstone. It was one of the first of many that we’ve taken together, and one of the few without family or friends along. It was also one of those “I’ve grown up, now” moments for me.

Travelling to Mazatlan

We would often travel with her family to various locations, and one that we did several times was to go to Mazatlan, Mexico. These were always great times, and I got to use my mission spanish. These times really helped Jodi and I bond with wonderful memories, like when I got up early, ran to the beach to buy really fresh shrimp, and cooked it for her for breakfast.

Going to the Smithsonian

When I was a kid, growing up in Indiana, my dad had these 2-week consulting jobs with the Navy in Washington, DC. The whole family would go, and while he was doing physics stuff, mom, Ruth, and I would wander the halls of the Smithsonian. On our way there, and on our way back, we would also visit Civil War and other historical sites. It fueled my lifelong love of learning.

Performing with ROC

After high school, and after my mission, but before I moved out on my own, I spent a bit of time singing for a band named “ROC”. They were an actual working cover band, and I learned a lot from them.

Meeting Chance Thomas

Also early in my marriage and my adult life, I met another musician by the name of Chance Thomas. He introduced me to many people and opportunities in the Salt Lake are music scene. He went on to establish a great name for himself in the world of video game scoring. We don’t see each other as often as I’d like, these days, but I count him as one of my best friends.

Meeting John Newman

Another best friend that I don’t get to see too often is John Newman. We share so many connections, music writing, gaming, game design, thoughts and philosophies, etc... He inspired me to write my food blog, http://marksblackpot.com

Getting the publishing contract & holding my first book

Writing that food blog gave me the opportunity to become a published author! After writing about my journey learning to cook in my Dutch ovens, I was approached by a publisher, and we did seven cookbooks together! What a great time that was.

Gaming with my sons

As my sons have grown up, I’ve shared with them my love of gaming. This has led to the creation of our tabletop role-playing game, TheHerosTale.com. I’ve literally watched them grow from anxious and confused teenagers to capable adults, along with many of their friends, from across a table scattered with papers, miniatures, and dice!

Attending the temple with Jodi

This one isn’t so much a single event as just a process that we do. It’s always wonderful to set next to her in the celestial room and pray.

Something that will happen next year

Yeah, so, who knows what’s next, right?  Along the way, I’ll keep looking for those bright bits of color underneath the bushes.





Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Thoughts on Guns and School Shootings.

There’s been yet another mass shooting in a school, and so everyone is filling my ears with their opinions and their memes. I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head. Here are some.

First, whenever someone starts their argument with the phrase, “The problem is...”, my respect for their opinion automatically drops. No one problem is THE problem. There is not one (pardon the pun) “silver bullet” solution. All proposed solutions are incomplete and flawed. We need to look a lot of the roots of the problems and fix them, and then realize that even those solutions will not “fix” everything.

If we do a lot of things, they will make school shootings less likely, but they will probably still happen. The nice thing about a lot of these solutions is that they will make our nation, as a whole, a nicer place to live.

OK, here are my ideas.

1 - Making guns illegal will not help. I know that’s tough for a leftie to say, but I believe it. When Jodi and I were first married, we took in teenage foster kids. Most were great kids, but most also had criminal records. I knew that at any given moment, I could have given some money to pretty much any one of those kids and within an hour or two they could have come back to me with a gun.

Having said that, I do think it’s valuable to register guns and to license gun owners, just like we do with cars. Will that prevent gun crimes? Maybe not, but it might help prosecute them.

I also think that making certain kinds of weapons illegal is reasonable.

2 - A lot of focus has been pointed at mental health as an issue. Many have rightly pointed out that there are a lot of people with mental health issues that are not violent. I think, at times, that I’m probably chronically depressed, possibly bipolar, and I’ve never shot anyone.

However, I think that every school shooter has some significant mental health issues. To stand in a crowded school hallway, full of your classmates and to start killing them is NOT HEALTHY. That’s NOT NORMAL.

Getting good mental health care in this country is very difficult. Often, insurances won’t cover it, or will barely cover one or two sessions with a counselor. There is no framework (or at least a very weak framework) for identifying those that are struggling and getting them help. This is true of potential shooters, but also potential suicides, and just plain sufferers. Having a token “school psychiatrist” who has to float between 4-5 schools in a district is not enough to identify and serve those that need it.

Many people identified and spoke out about the most recent school shooter long before he took the gun to the school. Why was nothing done? Who was supposed to do it? The school? The police? His family?

And politically, many of the same people who say, “It’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health issue” are the same people who vote for those that defund mental health services.

So, our schools, and our society, needs a more full and robust support system for mental health, that’s affordable and available.

3 - And while we’re talking about wellness, there’s something very important that we’re missing out on in schools: Social Studies. I mean REAL social studies. Instead of creating fake “zero tolerance for bullying” policies, there should be curriculum that’s taught from kindergarten through high school about how to get along. And EVERYONE should be in on it, not just the peer tutors. The parents should engage in it. We should be teaching everyone how to be nice to each other, and work together. Everyone should learn how to see things from someone else’s point of view.

Maybe as part of high school graduation, there should be a time period of service. You should be required to step outside of your own little world and work for the support of someone else for a time. That would mean that I wouldn’t get to just keep going to church and count that as my service. I would have to seek a new opportunity.

And learning about how society and our government actually works would be good, too.

4 - You can’t blame violent shooting on any one movie or video game.  However, we do have a popular culture that glorifies violence and makes it exciting. Fighting and violence is conflict, and conflict makes for good stories.

Here’s what’s really bad about it, though: It shows that violence has no consequence. If the hero of a movie kills a couple of security guards while he sneaks into the bad guy’s factory, that’s all that’s shown. The nameless, faceless guards fall down, and the hero steps over them and moves on in the story. The guards are never talked about again. But in real life, those guards have families that now have lost their father, wives that have lost their husbands, parents who have lost sons. In real life, they will mourn, have funerals, and struggle to move on. But that’s a different story, so the movie doesn’t show that. They’re just dead and are now immaterial, disposable.

Often in games and movies, violence is shown as the only possible solution to a problem. Faced with an opponent who blocks your agenda? Punch him, or shoot him. Negotiate? Why?

I don’t think legislation will change this, and I’m not sure that it should. But, we should all be aware of it, and think twice about it. I am also fully aware of my own hypocrisy in saying this. We can all do better.

5 - A lot of these proposed solutions will cost money. Personally, I think it will be money well spent. Establishing a robust mental health system, for example, will require a lot of counselors, social workers, and support personnel. Having armed guards in the schools will require hiring a lot of armed guards. Teaching social skills will require hiring specialist teachers.

So, let’s think about that, though. In addition to considering it an “investment in our own survival”, you’re also creating a lot of valuable jobs. All these people you’re hiring will now be employed, and be paying taxes, and buying groceries and cars and taking vacations and spending money on other things. Those business that provide the groceries, cars, vacations, and other things will now be doing more business, and paying more taxes. A vibrant, thriving economy is one where a lot of money is flowing.

Anyway. Those are all of my thoughts for now.  Feel free to leave yours in the comments below



Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.  Also, check out his new fantasy fiction blog: The Hero's Tale: Family-Friendly Role-Playing Game

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Policy Changes

While I don’t intend to resurrect a big argument over whether or not women should or ever will get the priesthood, there are many who would agree that women can provide and even deserve a greater leadership role in the church.

Today, I heard a radio discussion about the life, times, and legacy of Thomas S Monson, and there was a lot of comment about this. A few of the commenters were saying that Pres Monson (or his administration) had ignored the wishes of the women of the church in his refusal to give them the priesthood.

First of all, I don’t know how many women are (or are not) interested in full priesthood ordinations. I have heard many women comment that they would like to get more respect and leadership within the church, even if that doesn’t include the actual ordinations.

While the church is very, very traditional, and change moves very slowly, I’ve noticed something that was put into place during Pres. Monson’s leadership which, I think, will be marked as the starting point toward this respect and position.

When they announced the change in the age of missionary service, two things happened. One, a lot more young men signed up immediately. That’s not a surprise. Get going right out of high school, then go on to college afterward. There was another thing, however, that happened, and that was that many, many more young women signed up for missions.

Missions are often training grounds wherein young Mormons learn the commitment and service necessary for church leadership. Many more young women will now be going through this. As they grow up and mature, they will do so within the existing structures to be able to step into greater leadership roles.

Also, and this is going to be a critical part of that equation, the young men who serve with them will grow up seeing them more as equals in service (over time), and will likely (on the whole) grow into treating them more as equals.

This will take time, of course. It won’t happen as fast as the activists want. I do see it as a natural part of the growth of the church, and this simple policy change could very well drive that growth.

Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.

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