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What to Get Mom? April 22, 2010

Posted by tmorty in Uncategorized.

So, my mom’s birthday is coming up pretty soon (also Mother’s Day) and I’ve been wondering what I could do for her. When it comes to getting things for other people, I’ve never had any problems in that area, but getting something for my mom has always difficult. Why is it so hard? Because growing up, mom was always so good at hiding (i.e. sacrificing) what she wanted. I never realized that as a kid, but when I think back, every time our family had some extra money, (which wasn’t very often) I remember my mom taking one or several of us kids to the store to get us a new pair of shoes or some new clothes for school. As a teenager, I never knew what to get her but that was probably because I was too focused on myself at the time. The gifts I gave to my mother back then consisted of things that I planned to “borrow” from her when she wasn’t using them.   I can’t say it would have made much of a difference if I would have been a more thoughtful teenager. My mom would likely still have been  just as hard to shop for then as she is now.

I only ever remember my mom asking for one thing growing up. Her request was simple, all of us kids were to leave the house and spend the entire day with dad so that mom could have the entire house to herself. If I remember right, her plan was to read a book and catch up on some sleep while we were gone. I don’t remember what us kids did that day, the only things that I remember are that we had fun with dad and how happy my mom looked when we got home. I suspect she probably slept most of the day as I’d never seen her look so well rested before. If there was anyone that deserved a day to herself,  it was my mom. Now that most of us are grown up and have moved out of the house, things have come full circle as my mom tries to find clever ways to get us back in the house to come and visit her. However, one thing hasn’t changed. My mom still sacrifices her wants and needs to make sure us kids have some simple comforts in life. She’s done it for so long, I don’t even think she realizes she’s doing it. It has become who and what she is. So I ask, what’s the ideal birthday gift for a person who lives a life of sacrifice?


Two Tools To Compare Prices Online February 23, 2010

Posted by tmorty in Uncategorized.
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There are plenty of tools I use to comparison shop online, but I thought that I would share my two favorite tools with you just in case they’ll help you like they’ve helped me.

Invisible Hand Extenstion – Just add this extension to your Firefox or Chrome Browser and type the name of the product you are searching for and it will notify you of the lowest price for the item near the top of your screen just below your bookmarks ba automatically. Sometimes, it will show you several different prices for the same item and you can pick and choose from different retailers. Although this extension is awesome, it does have its limitations. 1) I’ve noticed that it doesn’t factor in S&H, so you’ll still need to do that on your own.  2) Occasionally, it will show the price for refurbished/used items along with the price for a new product and so you might think that one website is selling something for a lot cheaper when in reality it is showing you both used and new prices. I think that this is actually a good thing as long as you are aware of it. Sometimes it makes sense to buy the used or refurbished item for cheaper and sometimes it’s better to buy new.  3) Sometimes a product won’t show up at all. If this is the case, be more specific in your search. Click HERE to download the Firefox extension and HERE to download the Google Chrome version.

The Camelizer Extension – this site provides graphs of the price history of a product over time. When price history charts are available for a product, you’ll see a small tab on the left edge of your computer screen that says “The Camelizer”. If you click on that tab, the price history graph for that product will appear. Also, when you’re shopping on Amazon, it will give you the option to track a product right above the button you click to add an item to your shopping cart. You can download the Firefox extension HERE or the Google Chrome version HERE. If you don’t want to bother with extensions, just go directly to the website: http://camelcamelcamel.com/ and sign up for a free account and you’ll be able to track items through the website.

Happy price hunting!

No Hablo Espanol Muy Bien February 21, 2010

Posted by tmorty in Uncategorized.

Since I’ve  been unable to fall asleep tonight, I thought that I’d share a story from nearly 12 years ago that popped into my head. In March of 1998, I arrived in the town of Merida in the southern part of Mexico.  I was serving an LDS mission. It was my first time being outside of the U.S. and I’d been learning Spanish for two months. When I arrived in Merida, (which is located on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula) we had dinner with the mission president and his wife and went to sleep. In the morning, we had breakfast and lunch and then I was to catch a bus ride by myself to an old fishing town called Campeche, nearly three hours away.

We were running late that afteroon and so everyone was in a rush to catch their bus.  I was given my ticket and hurried on the bus. All of the sudden, I was all alone in the middle of nowhere. Few times in my life have I experienced more fear and anxiety than I did on that bus. Although the trip was supposed to last three hours, it seemed much longer to me. I began to panic and kept looking down at my bus ticket. The bus made several stops in different towns along the way and I wanted to make sure that I got off on the right stop. I noticed that my bus ticket had a different name on it than the town than where I had been told I was going. I decided that I would ask just to make sure. I leaned across the aisle and asked a lady, “Donde esta esto?”, which is “Where is this? As I pointed to my ticket and handed it to her, she acted as though she didn’t understand me at all. Okay, so I knew that my Spanish was horrible, but I was pretty confident about saying simple words. I had no clue what she said to me in response. At the time I thought, “Wow, my Spanish is even worse than I realized.” Come to find out, she didn’t even speak Spanish, she only spoke Mayan.

As we approached the next bus stop, she said some things to the bus driver in Mayan. I’m confident it was not Spanish as Mayan is quite different from Spanish. She motioned to me with hand gestures that this was my stop. I got off the bus and grabbed my suitcases. I had arrived. The bus took off and I was left at the train station alone. It was dark by then and there was no one waiting for me. To make matters worse, it was a small town that didn’t have many streetlights. I sat down for a minute and decided I would make another attempt to communicate with the locals.

“Donde esta la capilla Mormona?” (“Where is the Mormon church?) I said. The man I asked started talking really fast and I have no idea what he said to me, but he pointed down the road as if the church house was located there. It was a small town with only one main road going through it and I thought I might head to the church to be somewhere that seemed familiar. I ultimately decided to stay at the bus station rather than head to the church. Surely someone would arrive to pick me up. I waited for a good twenty minutes and no one came. I think I prayed more desperately than I ever had in my life at that point. Then after about twenty five minutes (which seemed like an eternity), a Mexican  missionary arrived on a tricycle taxi (no one had a car in this town) similar to the one in the picture below.

He seemed baffled by my presence. He asked me what I was doing there. I had been sent to the wrong town by mistake. Someone else had my ticket and I was given somebody else’s ticket.  He spoke slowly and told me I  was in a small Mayan town called Hecelchakan about 40 miles north of where I was supposed to be. Too bad I didn’t have any pesos to get there. I had some American dollars in my wallet, but those were no good in a small Mayan town and I didn’t have enough time to exchange my money while in Merida. The town was full of simple houses built out of sticks and straw. Although the houses they lived in seemed very humble, none of the houses were without a boom box (not a radio, but yes, a boom box) and also a television. The missionary told me that he was only there to pick up his companion that was going to arrive in about an hour or so. He wasn’t there for me.

I told him I didn’t have any pesos to get to Campeche and he paid 50 pesos ($5.00) for my bus ticket to Campeche.  I got on the bus and arrived in Campeche a short while later. When I got off the bus, I realized I was quite hungry. My missionary companion Elder Sanchez took me to our house. Immediately we dropped off my stuff and went to a food stand nearby. My companion bought me a hamburger. The hamburgers didn’t taste anything like those in the States, but anything would have tasted good at that point. It had been a difficult journey, but I arrived in Campeche, Mexico in one piece. I reflected back on my adventurous bus ride that night. No one in the world that I knew had any idea where I was that night, but the Lord had known where I was and He had protected me from harm and kept me safe for which I will always be grateful.

Tom’s Ultimate Travel Guide January 25, 2010

Posted by tmorty in Uncategorized.
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Okay, so I haven’t posted as often lately, but it was for a good reason. I’d been thinking of taking a trip lately and while I’ve been searching for deals so that I can travel on my budget, I thought, “Why not make all of the resources that I’ve put together over the years available to all of my friends. I wanted to have all of the resources and information I’d gathered in one place so I myself could come back to it, but also so that I could share the information so that you wouldn’t have to do as much searching as I’ve had to do.  I hope these resources help you plan your next trip as well.   So, here they are.







www.nwa.com/ – Not the old school rap group, but Northwest Airlines.




Search Engines








www.farecompare.com/ – This site has some great deals during certain times of the year. They also provide deals from SLC almost daily on Twitter. Check out their page here:


http://www.seatguru.com/ Not only does this site help you find flights and hotels, but it also provides very detailed information about the seats on the plane.

www.applevacations.com/ – I booked a trip to Playa del Carmen/Cancun with Apple on the recommendation of a friend. I got a good price on the flight and the all-inclusive hotel.



http://www.statravel.com/ – If you’re a student, this site has some deals for trips to Europe.

http://www.seatgeek.com – This site is cool. It allows you to search for trips by the concert or sporting event you want to attend.









http://www.dohop.com/ – vacation rentals.

http://www.raveable.com/ – reviews.


http://www.wegoround.com/ – vacation rentals.




http://www.tvtrip.com/ – Hotel video guide.


http://www.travelpost.com/ – hotel reviews.

http://www.trivago.co.uk/ – hotel reviews in Europe.


http://www.hostelworld.com/ – I used this one on a trip to Italy. The place we stayed at was somewhere in between a hotel and a hostel and it was pretty good. Especially for $25 a night. Breakfast wasn’t that great, but hey, it cost $25 a night.

http://www.couchsurfing.org/index.html – Hospitality exchange. For the truly adventurous. 🙂 Maybe I’ll try this someday.






www.urbanspoon.com/ -If you have an i-phone, you need to download this app from iTunes.  You can still get good information on this site on your PC, but it’s not as fun. Check out the demo for the app here.

http://www.where.com/– Helps you find restaurants and other things.

http://www.zagat.com/-Restaurant reviews. Better to look at this one over the Internet. They have a phone app, but it is pricey. If you want a phone app, go with UrbanSpoon for the iPhone, it’s free.


http://www.citysearch.com/– Find restaurants and events nearby where you’re staying.


http://www.luggagelimits.com/ A site that’ll tell you how much luggage you can take with you before they’ll start charging you for it.

http://triplittle.com/ – All in one trip planner

http://citytours.googlelabs.com/ – This site is only in beta, but what a cool site to help you plan your trip.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ – I always go to this site before booking a trip. It usually has good reviews and good advice from a large community.

http://www.x-rates.com/ – Even though I would have named this site a different name for obvious reasons, it has information on the exchange rates for your money. http://www.google.com/transit – Help with the transit system from your friends at Google.



https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/collection/travel – Firefox add-ons for travelers. Road Trips http://gasbuddy.com/http://gasprices.mapquest.com/



http://www.waze.com/homepage/ – traffic info

http://www.nationofgo.com/ – An interactive website that gives you info on road trips as well as different trails.

http://trapster.com/ – A way to avoid running into your friendly local law enforcement and incurring extra “fees”.

http://riskyroads.org/ – Watch out for the dangerous roads while traveling.

http://gis5.com/pois_along_route/gm_pois_along_route.php – This is supposed to be a site to help you discover points of interest. However, all it showed me was where all of the fast food restaraunts were along the way. At least I now know where all of the In-N-Out burger joints are from SLC to California.

http://www.bikely.com/ – Bike trails

I hope this is helpful. Do you know of other good websites that you’ve used and have been helpful when planning your trips? Share them in the comments.

Coal For Christmas December 15, 2009

Posted by tmorty in Uncategorized.

When I was a young kid, I was just slightly more immature than I am right now. Apart from being childish my reasoning skills hadn’t quite developed yet. One cold winter day near Christmas time I used those limited reasoning skills and walked outside without a coat. I don’t even remember why I went outside, but I did and it was very cold. While on my short outdoor adventure, my sister decided it would be funny to lock the doors on me so that I couldn’t get back inside. To make things even more hilarious, my sister ran around the house and locked all of the doors.

After several attempts with no luck at finding an open door and some repeated knocking, I realized what had occurred. After I ceased to knock on the door, I could see my sister looking at me through one of the bedroom windows. With a smile on her face she proceeded to stick out her tongue and wiggle her hands to taunt me. So, I decided to do what I thought any reasonable human being my age would do and take matters into my own hands.  I was going to be resourceful and use one of my talents. Being a pitcher in baseball, I thought I was really good at throwing baseballs and so I decided to throw a snowball at her to scare her and teach her a lesson. It wasn’t going to hit her, but it would just make her flinch and she would stop sticking her tongue out at me.

Although I was prideful even at that age, I should have had more confidence in my abilities because when I threw the snowball, it shattered the bedroom window when I threw the snowball. Luckily, the window I hit was a double-paned window and the snowball didn’t break through the second pane.  When I saw the window shatter, I knew it would mean trouble for me when Mom and Dad came home and found out. My sister stopped joking around and all of the sudden the situation became serious. My parents arrived home and found out what had happened. They weren’t very happy with me. However, I don’t really remember them doing anything to my sister at all for locking me out of the house.

The year of the snowball incident wasn’t a very good year for our family financially. Times were tough for everyone and my family was no exception. The extra expense of replacing a window was going to stretch the family budget.  My parents seemed upset and hinted that someone with the same name as mine might be on Santa’s naughty list that year.

When Christmas Day finally came, sure enough I was on the naughty list and there was a large lump of coal waiting for me from Santa Claus. It was a really big piece that weighed several pounds. Although at first glance it might  seem a bit harsh, I wasn’t exactly an angel that year. My being on the nice list would have been touch-n-go regardless of breaking that window. Great, just what I deserved I thought. My parents were right.  I was on the naughty list and received coal rather than presents like the nice kids. However, after less than two minutes my mom let me know that Santa was in a good mood that year and was being more lenient than he had been in previous years and she came in with the presents that Santa had instructed should be given to me.

I’d never really even thought about this experience until a few years ago. Since then, I’ve often thought about how much we all deserve to be given coal at certain times in our lives and at other times we deserve better. My parents had taught me through the guise of Santa Clause; that even though some people probably deserve the coal, we should give them something better just like the Master, even Jesus Christ does when he intercedes on our behalf to God and gives us blessings even when we don’t deserve them. This Christmas season, you’re likely to run into both people that deserve coal and people that deserve better. I encourage you to be like Santa and Christ and err on the side of mercy and  treat everyone as though they deserve better.