Re: Ferguson

I won’t say much regarding the troubles in Ferguson, MO. I will say, however, that I’m sad that things have gone this far. There are many, many factors that led to the rioting, the least of which was a justified police shooting. This tweet from @ItsRobbAllen sums up my toughts

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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Conflict Studies, Crazy Left


Language and the Brain

How does language provide opportunities for growth and change through conflict?

Years ago, I took an Intro to Linguistics elective at Salt Lake Community College. One of the things that stuck in my mind was the concept of Nativism, that babies are born with the knowledge that languages are patterned, and with the ability to seek out those patterns. This capacity for language acquisition, known as a Language Acquisition Device (LAD), is genetic and not the result of a conscious decision on the part of the speaker. The LAD helps children understand the universal grammar of a language as well as the parameters of that language. This concept changed my interest from the mechanical aspects of language to the social use of language and the ways in which people communicate.

Recently, I tweeted a link to an article about how human brains have the capacity to remember the linguistic pattern of languages heard in a child’s infancy, even if the child no longer speaks/knows that language. Fascinating. The brain retains that information! This shows us how deeply entrenched language is in the human experience.

During my studies as an undergraduate, one of the first communication theories that I found truth in was George Herbert Mead’s theory of Symbolic Interactionism. In it, Mead discusses the connection between Meaning, Language, and Thinking. Meaning is the construction of social reality, Language is the source of meaning, and Thinking is the process of taking the role of the other. Here is a summary provided by (the website for my old Comm Theory textbook).

  • Meaning: The construction of social reality.
    1. First principle: Humans act toward people or things on the basis of the meanings they assign to those people or things.
    2. Once people define a situation as real, it’s very real in its consequences.
    3. Where a behavioral scientist would see causality as stimulus–>response, for an interactionist it would look like stimulus–>interpretation–>response.
  • Language: The source of meaning.
    1. Meaning arises out of the social interaction people have with each other.
    2. Meaning is not inherent in objects.
    3. Meaning is negotiated through the use of language, hence the term symbolic interactionism.
      1. Second principle: As human beings, we have the ability to name things.
      2. Symbols, including names, are arbitrary signs.
      3. By talking with others, we ascribe meaning to words and develop a universe of discourse.
    4. Symbolic naming is the basis for society—the extent of knowing is dependent on the extent of naming.
    5. Symbolic interactionism is the way we learn to interpret the world.
      1. A symbol is a stimulus that has a learned meaning and a value for people.
      2. Our words have default assumptions.
      3. Significant symbols can be nonverbal as well as linguistic.
  • Thinking: The process of taking the role of the other.
    1. Third principle: An individual’s interpretation of symbols is modified by his or her own thought process.
    2. Symbolic interactionists describe thinking as an inner conversation, or minding.
      1. Minding is a reflective pause.
      2. We naturally talk to ourselves in order to sort out meaning.
    3. Whereas animals act instinctively and without deliberation, humans are hardwired for thought.
      1. Humans require social stimulation and exposure to abstract symbol systems to have conceptual thought.
      2. Language is the software that activates the mind.
    4. Humans have the unique capacity to take the role of the other.

Essentially, language creates and sustains our social reality, gives humans the ability to create complex social structures, and has the power to shape the world in which we live. This makes communication one of the most powerful forces on Earth and each person on the planet is born with the ability to use this power.

Okay. What’s the point?

The point is that an individual’s understanding of the world is controlled by the meaning that the individual has assigned, through language, to the world. This is where conflict comes from, because people have assigned different meanings to the same things.

Today I came across this article, How Your Brain Decides Without You.

In it, the author states, “We form our beliefs based on what comes to us from the world through the window of perception, but then those beliefs act like a lens, focusing on what they want to see.” Put another way, we form our beliefs based on what comes to us from the world through the window of our assigned meaningsand then those beliefs act like a lens, causing us to focus on what we want to see.

Basically, Symbolic Intetactionism or seeing life through theory, as Deetz put it.

This may be why individuals seemingly struggle with the same problems over and over again, the same conflicts over and over again. S/he has assigned a specific meaning to a situation/person/group/object, based on experience. Until s/he has an experience that provides him/her with an opportunity to change his/her assigned meaning to a given situation/person/group/object, it will not change. That experience is vital, as pointed out in the Brain article, because, “we are stubborn in our decisions…. Studying subjects’ brain activity via EEG, [researchers] found that people’s “memory signals” were much the same toward… incorrect information as they were toward… things they correctly remembered. Their interpretation of the event had hardened into truth.

“This hardening can happen without our awareness.”

Capital T Truth cannot be changed by information alone. It is changed through experience. Experience changes Truth because experience creates an opportunity for new meaning to be created and assigned by the individual.

When you experience conflict, I encourage you to engage it open mindedly. Use it as an opportunity to change your world.

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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Conflict Studies, Language, People


The Dreams Have Returned

I don’t dream often and when I do dream, my dreams are strange and bizarre. Even more rare than dreaming is to dream on consecutive nights. I honestly cannot remember the last time that I woke up and remembered a dream. That is, until Sunday night. In my dream:

I was living in my old apartment in North Salt Lake. It was night time. I was hanging out at home, naked, and decided to go for a stroll naked. Next thing I know, it’s day time and I’m out in West Valley City, in one of the neighborhoods in which I grew up. Still naked. Now I’m trying to run from house to house, finding cover, so that I can get home. To put this into proper perspective, it’s almost 20 miles from one place to the other. How I expected to get home without being seen, I don’t know, but that was the plan.
Any way, as I was running toward one house, a car was coming, so I hid in some bushes along a driveway. The car pulls into the driveway where I’m hiding and the guy gets out. Suddenly, he stops. He’s seen me. I ask for his help and he says he doesn’t have time because he’s prepping for a wedding, and he tells me to stay hidden.
Then, the bride and groom show up and tons of other people. And I’m just chillin there, naked, in the bushes, trying to stay hidden. Then the bride and groom see me. They come over and chat about what I’m doing and we laugh and have a great time. The bride keeps calling me Golum/Smeagol.
After several hours of me hiding, and being visited several times by the bride (we’re developing quite the friendship), I’m given a white t-shirt and a leather jacket (what?!) and told to stay hidden. I try to make a run for it through a neighbor’s yard, but there’s a Doberman Pinscher, so I have to turn back.
When the reception is over, the Bride pulls me out of the bushes and we chitchatted for a minute. She gave me a big hug and smile and said, “Thanks for coming to my wedding!” Then I got into a little pick up truck (like, a little two-wheel drive Toyota) with a Highway Patrol Officer, who is going to take me home.
Then my alarm went off and I woke up.
Talk about a hectic Sunday night!
Monday night was a little bit better. All that I can remember is that Matthew McConaughey and I were running through some warehouses and he wanted to ordain me a High Priest, in case he got killed. I asked him to tell me his priesthood line of authority. You know, because, regardless if I’m running for my life, I want to make sure this whole High Priest thing is legit, I guess. Then we got into an argument because he couldn’t remember and I wanted to call my dad and have him come down to the warehouse and ordain me a High Priest because I know that line of authority is legit (it’s the one I currently have as an Elder).
Then my alarm went off and I woke up.
The dreams are back. I’ll update you as they continue.
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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Dreams, Humor, Part 2

Back in 2012, I was contacted by and asked if I’d be willing to review some ammunition. I said yes and then promptly got busy with life. Well, at long last, here is the review!


As a quick reminder, this is Fiocchi .357 Magnum 125gr SJHP.

We were shooting it out of my Smith & Wesson 686, with a 4″ barrel, and my dad’s Marlin model 1894c.


My past experience with Fiocchi it’s that it’s loaded hotter than other types of factory ammunition. However, the 686 handled the recoil just fine and the Marlin was a joy to shoot.

Deer Hung Marlin

The only hang up that we had was with the Marlin. If the action was not cycled quickly, the front of the round would catch on the upper lip of the chamber, deforming the lead. Greater than usual force was then needed to chamber the round. However, when cycled quickly, no hang ups were experienced.


Whatever the use, Fiocchi .357 Magnum 125gr SJHP from is a solid buy.

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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Follow up, Guns


Today is a Good Day

The simplest things make me happy:

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Movies, Nerd Stuff


The Scout Rifle

From The Firearm Blog:

An irony of the Scout Rifle is that it’s a late 20th century weapon designed for the 19th; a sort of modernist homage to the romance the post-war generations have had with Brand’s Old West, Kipling’s India, and Conrad’s Africa.

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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Guns, History


Ben Affleck’s Melt Down on Bill Maher

Over the weekend, Ben Affleck had a total melt down on Bill Maher’s show. This post is not to bash Affleck or Maher; it is not to take sides in the debate; it is not to discuss the pros or cons of Islam. I want to break down the discussion, the interaction between the parties, so that when you have a discussion where you are in Affleck’s position, you can better understand what is happening, which could help you better navigate the discussion.

I want to start by breaking down the main points of the argument.

The Discussion

Sam Harris sets the base for his argument thus: “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people.” Before he can finish his thought, Affleck interjects, “Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?”

Affleck is not even listening to the argument. He is so ready to defend his belief that he questions Harris’ authority on the subject. This diversionary tactic is common in conflict. Affleck then continues to drag the discussion off topic by claiming that questioning Islamic teachings is racist. As he continues to melt down he states that “we are endowed by our Fore Fathers with inalienable rights….” After agreeing that we (referring to Western Liberals) have to be able to question bad ideas, Sam Harris doubles down on his argument: “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.”  At this point, Affleck is so lost in his anger that he grasping at straws and while declaring his own evidence, that what Harris and Maher are saying is not true, and offering no evidence, he demands to know the evidence of the other side. When offered further evidence, Affleck simply gets dismissive. “Alright, let someone else talk. You’re doing a lot of talking.”

Michael Steele jumps in and re-frames Harris’ argument beautifully, “You’re saying that the strongest voices are coming from those who are jihadists and extremists and that represents a bigger piece of the pie than we often think is true.” He then goes on to state that what is lacking is the amount of national and even global news coverage of Muslims who stand up to radical ideals.

This begins to move the discussion forward but Ban Affleck cannot help himself and launches back into the fray. He demands to know, “What is your solution, to just condemn Islam?” Then, rather than waiting for an answer, he launches into his own set of points on why the West is to blame for radical Islam. Affleck’s final point is typical of this kind of disagreement, “I’m telling you that I disagree with you… and I don’t understand you.” He then cycles back into false claims and blame shifting. In so doing, Affleck reinforces Harris’ primary argument, that “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards muslims as people” by accusing Harris and Maher of condemning muslims as people because of radical ideas.

Conflict and Identity

Ben Affleck presents several common diversionary tactics in this discussion that many people use when they fight or argue with someone else.

  1. Discredit the other party – “Are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Because if you’re not, I don’t have to listen to you and your argument is invalid. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Have the patience to hear the other person out. It does you on harm to listen to and consider the other party’s point of view.
  2. Making grand claims – You’re racist! Insert prejudice, bigot or any other “othering” word here. There are around 1.5 Billion Muslims around the world. Exactly which “race” is being targeted? Making grand, false claims is a diversionary tactic designed to confuse the other party. The only reason I would need to confuse the other party is if I have NOTHING to argue with. Don’t fall into this trap. Listen, think, consider, then respond.
  3. Being dismissive – Dismissing the other party simply because you do not agree with them is childish. Denial prevents both sides from moving toward understanding.
  4. Blame shifting – Blame shifting is designed to move the discussion to another topic and move away from the topic at hand. It’s also a move designed to grab power in an argument because, when I blame shift, I control the topic, which means I’m controlling the discussion.

By avoiding these four diversionary tactics, we can move toward discussion and understanding. Building understanding is a corner stone of conflict resolution. If you find yourself doing one or all of these in an argument, as yourself, why am I doing this?

The answer might surprise you: the argument threatens part of your identity. This post is already getting lengthy so I’ll leave some links at the bottom for you to further explore the relationship of identity and conflict. I will leave the discussion on this thought. Ben Affleck appears to whole-heartedly believe that if you question the teachings of Islam, you are a racist. This explains his inability to even listen to someone challenge that. It threatens part of his identity (he is not a racist). If he listens and considers what Harris and Maher have to say, then he may have to admit that he is racist. This is a misunderstanding on Affleck’s part, but he won’t allow himself to get far enough to realize that his assumption is wrong.

When we fail to allow ourselves to listen to other points of view, we remain mired in our own world and deny ourselves opportunity for growth. When we allow ourselves to listen to other points of view and consider them, we allow ourselves the opportunity to better strengthen our own belief, or question that belief if we find it lacking.

Extra Reading

Unpacking things: This blog post was written at the end of my undergraudate studies and contains material from a capstone paper that I wrote.

Construction of Online Identity: This blog post is a portion of a paper written for one of my graduate classes, Social Dynamics of Communication Technology.

Books to Read:

  • Identity and Vilence: The Illusion of Destiny
  • Sitting in the Fire: Large Group Transformation Using Conflict and Diversity

Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Conflict Studies


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