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To my Utah friends planning on voting for third-party candidates:

Today, in Utah, there is a presidential election that is actually contested. This is the first time that Utah has been any sort of “swing state” in living memory. It means that votes matter more now than they have in a long while.
I can think of many reasons why you might make the choice to vote for a third-party candidate. Maybe you just can’t tolerate either of the primary candidates. Maybe you think Trump would be an unfit president but Hillary’s views are deeply contradictory to your own. Maybe you want to push for voting reform, and you think this will help. Maybe you want to push against the two-party system. Maybe you feel a third-party candidate simply represents your values and views far better than the primary contenders.
And maybe you don’t want to set aside your idealism, your hope for something better, your symbolic gesture of protest, or your concerns for your preferred major candidate. Why should you have to? What kind of unjust world would demand such things?
Well, I’ve long considered myself a pragmatist, so I want to speak in defense of that view here for a moment.
It sucks doing what is “politically expedient.” It sucks feeling like you have to vote for the lesser of two evils. It sucks to participate in a system that’s so imbalanced, so polarized, so broken. But there is a tremendous difference between dreaming of a better world and actually changing the world we live in.
The simple fact of the matter is, third party candidates will not win this election. And while some good may come of a surge in third-party voters — in getting us talking about the system as it stands — there is no reason to believe it will change anything.
The U.S. is not brand new. There is plenty of history to look through if you want to see what voting for a third-party candidate might do. The Bull Moose party shows us that even a tremendous amount of support for a third-party candidate will not change our voting system, and will cause a majority of people to wind up with their least favorite candidate. The situation in Florida in the 2000 election shows us that votes are sometimes so narrow that third-party voters swing elections away from their second favorite candidate. And so on, and so forth.
There are ways to push for voting reform. There are other major improvements our voting system needs. The two-party system, the electoral college, the way primary elections lead to extreme candidates … all of these should be overhauled or eliminated. But voting for a third-party candidate is a purely symbolic gesture that will make no lasting impact.
At the end of the day, voting for a third-party candidate is the equivalent of giving half a vote to your least favorite candidate. Now, I’m not here to tell you who your least favorite candidate is. We can have a separate discussion on that, if you’d like. But I am telling you that deciding on your preferred candidate of the two who may actually win is the best way to get a president who best reflects your values. It means compromise, it means settling for less, but the alternative is giving de facto support to the values that least reflect your own.
With a Republican-controlled senate today, a Trump presidency would mean major Republican legislation could go through. With a contested senate majority widely anticipated during the next election cycle, it’s entirely plausible that the same would apply to Democrat legislation during a Clinton presidency. And while presidents do not have any kind of unlimited power, they do direct the priorities and the conversation, which means that the discussion we’re seeing during the presidential campaigns is indicative of the types of political changes or projects we may see in the next four to eight years. And, of course, our president is our representative to other nations, and will influence how other nations view us and choose to interact with us.
The outcome of this election is not neutral. The way the U.S. will look in the coming years will be very different based on who wins this November. What I encourage you to do is simply this: Think of what the world is likely to look like in either scenario, and decide which of those worlds you would prefer to live in. Don’t give into the hype or the fear. Listen to the candidates and their stated goals, investigate impartial analyses of the likely consequences of proposed legislation, and –in short — figure out which of these candidates best reflects your values.
I’m not saying they will reflect your values particularly well. But it is my view that choosing the lesser evil is a civic responsibility. Otherwise, you are giving de facto support to the candidate you believe to be the greater evil. You are, in essence, making the world reflect your values less when you choose to vote for a third party candidate or choose not to vote.
A part of me wants to end with a call to action. Something profound and inciting. Instead, I’ll just pose a question. What do you believe is truly the better way to embody your values? Making a symbolic — but ultimately unproductive — gesture that reflects the way you wish the world worked? Or jumping into the muck and shit of how this country actually works and making what difference you can?

A Message to My Mormon Friends and Family

I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you about something important.

I feel incapable of getting there. I don’t even know exactly what it is I’m trying to talk about. It feels like a wild flailing on my part, trying to write about something that feels vital but that I can’t quite reach. I sincerely appreciate any willingness you have to stick around through my poor attempts to talk about … this. About this thing that feels so crucial to say.

I want to talk to you. But …

I do not want to talk to you about the shooting in Orlando.

I do not have to. You already know.

Don’t you?

I want to talk to you about GPS navigation.

For many years of my life I simply felt lost. I assume that I’ve damaged whatever part of the brain draws mental maps and remembers the rapid-fire directions of the gas station attendant. Or, more likely, I just inherited the same genetic trait that once caused my mother to wander for six hours in the few square miles of Island Park trying to find a cabin, repeatedly saying “It’s an adventure!”

Needless to say, the fact that I made it to and from Los Angeles feels miraculous to me. I have my GPS device to thank. It has guided me through each step of this journey of several hundred miles—and in the years since I bought it, it has guided me through road trips that spanned more than a dozen states. Being able to follow the simple, clear directions – albeit with its occasionally aggravating mispronunciations, like “Stocker” as “Stoe-ker” or its insistence that it’s “Martin Luther King Jay Arr Boulevard” – has been a tremendous relief.

I feel like I couldn’t have made it here without it. Factually, I realize this is not true. I could have looked up directions, wrestled with maps, juggled print-outs, asked for directions (over and over), and probably found valuable back-alley sites. It also would have driven me crazy. It’s not impossible to navigate without trusting the voice of the lady in my GPS device, but I am so grateful that I don’t have to.

I want to talk to you about the fact that I am not straight.

Read more.

MatD’s Beach Adventure in Costa Mesa, Treasure Island, Atlantic City, Gulf Shores, and Santa Cruz

This post originally appeared on Made All the Difference and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

Summer is about enjoying the sun, sand, and sea. With over 90,000 miles of shoreline, there are many options to choose from when selecting a spot for a beachfront vacation. Each beach town has a great variety of tourist activities and delivers a unique experience to those considering a location for a beach adventure.

Avoid the High Beachfront Prices of the California Coast at Costa Mesa

Located in the famed Orange Country, Costa Mesa, California, is a beach town for everyone. It’s located near the renowned Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. It also has all the amenities of the beachfront spots without the high prices of nearby towns. Costa Mesa is a mile from the water and is close enough for a morning surf lesson. It’s a cultural center with several theaters and amphitheaters for art and musical productions. Costa Mesa hotels, such as Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa, provide a great place to explore the city.

Hunt for Golden Sand Beaches at Treasure Island

There isn’t treasure buried in the sand in Treasure Island, Florida, but the golden sand sparkles as the warm water washes over the shoreline. The area is known for its sunny weather, and it’s great for parasailing on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. If you get tired of the beach, make the short drive to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg or Bush Gardens in Tampa. Also consider staying at one of the many beachfront hotels in Treasure Island, such as Residence Inn by Marriott St. Petersburg.

Enjoy the Sand and Slots in Atlantic City

Atlantic City, New Jersey, has a long history as a beach resort town. From the time the first Atlantic City hotel appeared in the 1800s, the town has been based around tourism and its famed beach. The tallest lighthouse in New Jersey resides here as well. Today, this city is more famous for its boardwalk and high-rise casinos. It’s considered the Las Vegas of the East Coast of the U.S. However, gambling hasn’t always been part of the Atlantic City boardwalk. It was legalized here in 1976 and has grown as a main tourist draw since then. Avoid the boardwalk crowds, though, by staying at The Chelsea.

Visit the Little-Known Beach Town of Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores, Alabama, is often overshadowed by the large beach towns in nearby Texas and Florida. This fact has helped keep the crowds down along the beach. The town isn’t tourist free, however. It’s a haven with beach amenities, but without the swarm of visitors. Be sure to enjoy a stay at a Gulf Shores hotel, like the Four Winds 704, without the crowds. Gulf Shores has several nearby state parks for walking along the beach and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge for those looking to see some wildlife. The parks and refuge are home to many bird and other animal species that are a treat to watch.

Travel From Beaches to Redwood Forests in Santa Cruz

Few beach towns are as diverse as Santa Cruz, California. The town sits on the beach, and a few miles inland is a forest of redwoods, which is protected by the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The beaches are great for surfing, and the town is home to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. The city offers a wide array of outdoor adventure for both nature and beach lovers. Don’t forget to take a break from your adventure at one of the many hotels in Santa Cruz, like the Chaminade Resort & Spa.

Which of these is your favorite beach town to visit?

SLATE: My System for Productivity

In today’s off-topic post, I wanted to talk about how I’ve become more productive in recent months. I’ve learned that simplicity is key to stay motivated, at least for me. So I’ve developed what I call the “System for Low-Anxiety Task Engagement” (or SLATE). All you need is a white board. Here’s how it works, using this morning’s project as an example.

tl;dr: Use a white board to track current projects. Start with a daily routine. From there, choose one project at a time, even if the choice feel arbitrary. Map out the full project by breaking it into easy steps. Get to work. Choose the next project (which can totally be a “play project”). Rinse, repeat, and at the beginning of the next day, wipe the SLATE clean before starting over again.

START WITH A MORNING ROUTINE: This part of your white board will be stable from week to week. List the things you want to do first thing in the morning, and build it up gradually if you don’t already have the habits established. For me, the goals here are “cold shower,” “meditation,” “daily report” (where I track goals / weight in a Google Doc), and “choose first project.” By having an established morning routine, you always know where to start and you can give your day momentum.

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Awe Inclusive’s Colorado Cities Perfect for a Long Weekend Escape

This post originally appeared on Awe Inclusive and is reproduced here with the permission of the content owner.

Colorado Cities

If you’re a  partier, head to Miami. For fashion junkies, New York tops your list. Risk takers flock to Las Vegas. And those who love nature should visit Colorado.

Here are some Colorado cities that will get you outside and enjoying our natural surroundings.

Camera Ready

A top choice during warm or cold weather, Aspen offers the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts to get their fill of the great outdoors.

Charge your cameras for your visit to the Maroon Bells. I won’t spoil the surprise with too many details, but this attraction should top your to-do list. Book your stay at The Little Nell for breathtaking scenery and luxury accommodations.

Many rooms come standard with balconies and mountain views, giving guests a breath-taking visual experience.

Take a Hike

Hiking is undoubtedly the national pastime of Boulder, Colorado.

The Flatirons, a flat-sided mountain range that looks spectacular both from far away and up close, offers scenic hiking and picnic locations.

For good hikes closer to town visit Chautauqua. The on-site visitors center can help you choose the right trail for your needs.

St. Julien Hotel and Spa is a favorite hotel for visitors to Boulder. Enjoy comfortable rooms, inspired dining, and sensual spa offerings during your stay at this location.

Nature at its Finest

Colorado Springs offers several park and forest areas for those who enjoy theirphysical fitness with a side of nature.

Drive, bike, or hike through the Garden of the Gods, a group of balanced rock formations that will leave you in awe. Pikes Peak gives visitors another reason to say “wow” and pull out their selfie-sticks. Take the cog train up the mountain toexplore at a leisurely pace.

Stay at the Garden of the Gods Club and Resort for unbeatable value in Colorado Springs.

Unlimited Activities

It’s not hard to find beauty in Fort Collins. You’ll see it no matter how you choose to spend your time in this outdoorsy paradise. Get out on the water atHorsetooth Mountain Open Space for adventures in stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing.

For adult fun, stop by New Belgium Brewery for a tour, history lesson, and brew samples of this hometown favorite.

Make your reservations at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Fort Collins for stress-free lodging. You’ll get a large comfortable room, unparalleled customer service, and two meals daily served Monday through Friday.

Snow-Covered Retreat

Don’t hold your breath while searching for low-cost lodging in Vail. With stunning views, luxury resorts, and world-class skiing, accommodations in this area rarely drop to budget levels.

Splurge on a vacation if you’re into winter sports and nature activities. Vail Mountain Resort is the place to enjoy the slopes for skiers of all levels.

If you visit during the warmer months, head over to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens for beautiful scenery and colorful flora. Tivoli Lodge is an acclaimedVail favorite among new and repeat visitors alike.

Don’t delay booking your trip to get the best deals on travel and accommodation.

Photo by Brendan Caffrey via Trover.com

In Defense of Food: Summary and Review

Rob's Epic Quest for Health and Sanity
I recently finished reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, a book that condemns large swaths of American food culture and aims to provide a few alternatives. In this post, I’ll provide a summary of the book’s core ideas and then give my thoughts about the book.

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50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food: Summary and Review

After reading Intuitive Eating (check my review here), I felt a real need to do further research into the question of emotional eating. While the advice from Intuitive Eating was valuable, its conclusion on emotional eating boiled to “don’t do it.” No real directions on how to do that or on what good alternatives may be. After a bit of research, I found a book titled 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. Score!

I finished reading that book the other day, and wanted to share my thoughts.

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