Baby James turns 1 Year Old

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This week our darling little boy turned one year old. For the past month I’ve been reminiscing about all the things I was doing and feeling a year ago leading up to James’ birth. Part of me misses that anticipation and excitement, and I definitely teared up a bit looking at pictures of 1 day old little James, but every new milestone and age has so much joy (and I definitely don’t miss all the pregnancy aches and pains)!

Watching him learn new skills and develop into his own little person has been even more fun than I imagined. James has to be one of the most outgoing, cheerful, smiley, and social babies I have ever met. He exudes enthusiasm and a zest for life and exploring, and nearly always has a smile on his lips and a bounce in his little steps, whether he’s playing on toy cars with me, or climbing on armored cars with Daddy.

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Prepping In Faith

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There are basically two kinds of people in the world: Those who go out of their way to keep their vehicles topped up with gasoline, and those who don’t. What I find strange is that a lot of those who don’t will actually scoff at those who do, laughing that anyone would subject themselves to such an absurd inconvenience.

It’s the same with our holster company; we regularly get criticism for suggesting that people carry firearms. Those people who do carry are called pessimistic, fearful, paranoid, and worse. I realize that guns are political hot-button issue, but I, personally, have also been sneered at for carrying pocket knives, flashlights, multi tools… basically anything more useful than a bottle opener.

When I was a volunteer firefighter, everyone was very happy to see that I had a trunkful of tools in my personal vehicle, but now that I’m just a regular person, my industrial fire extinguisher, commercial jack, and heavy-duty tow straps have apparently become jokes. Earlier this week Heidi overheard someone sniff at the idea of buying and storing extra food for emergencies. Where does this attitude come from? Generally speaking, anti-preppers criticize preppers for three reasons:

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The New Live Action Animated Jungle Book

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Heidi and I recently saw the new Jungle Book film. I may be a CNC Machinist by day, but I’m still an animator by night, and a Kipling fan, and an amateur Disney historian, so I was very eager to watch this retelling of the classic story, even if only to see the animation and other technical details. And what details!

First and foremost, the new movie is a visual masterpiece. The design, animation, lighting, and rendering are just plain incredible. It should be noted that almost everything in this movie that is not Mowgli is completely computer generated. All the backgrounds, nearly all of the plants, and every single animal. Ironically, while this film is one of Disney’s many “live-action” retellings of their animated classic films, this one actually has more animation in it than the original.

The animators at MPC and Weta Digital should be credited with two amazing feats: creating believable wild animals, and making those wild animals into believable emotive actors. The engineers also deserve credit, because after the animators created the skeletal animation, every animal got a soft-body muscle stimulation on top of the bones, a cloth-based skin simulation on top of the muscles, and finally a dynamic fur and hair simulation on top of the skin. Every bit of water the animals touch and every bit of foliage they brush against is also simulated. Everything in the film feels real.

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Todoist: the To-Do List Program that does (almost) Everything

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Recently my sister-in-law Nadia, told me about a new program she was trying out to help her manage her projects, to-do lists, shopping lists, and other lists. We often “talk shop”, as Nadia’s husband calls it, and swap ideas on household management, everything from organizational tips, menu ideas, and helpful computer programs or apps, to laundry solutions or child training ideas. It’s often very helpful to bounce ideas off of someone else who’s in a similar stage of life, and get ideas on how to do what we’re doing faster or better. This program is called Todoist, and it has been a game changer for me.

I love lists; I love making lists, and I love checking things off my lists even more. I’m constantly trying out new methods of list-making for various projects and seasons of life. I’ve used Excel Spreadsheets, Word documents, Apple Reminders, Google Keep, Evernote, random mobile apps, post-it notes, notebooks, scratch paper, and more. At various times in my life, all of these have been helpful, but this new system tops anything else I’ve used thus far. I don’t use this as a substitute for Google calendar (where I put actual appointments like dental appointments or dinner at someone’s house), but it’s perfect for all those daily things I can’t forget to do or the house would fall apart, but there’s no exact time for them.

Here are some of the most helpful features:

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Christ as a Doctrinal Checksum

Checksum

A checksum is a small number that is generated from a larger number which allows you to quickly check whether or not the larger number has changed. It’s a very handy tool when transferring large files on a computer, since you can instantly check whether any bits of the file have been corrupted or altered without slowly and painstakingly comparing every bit. This concept is everywhere, probably even in your pocket.

If you look at the 16-digit number on a credit card, the last digit is actually a check digit: a number generated from the 15 other digits by a simple yet clever algorithm. When you type your credit card number into a website, that algorithm tests the credit card number against the check digit, instantly revealing any typos without needing to compare that number to the entire Visa database. ISBN, VIN, and bank routing numbers all contain check digits for the same reason – they provide a really quick way to spot errors.

I’ve often wished there was an easy way to apply this concept in other areas, like knowing that pages 27 and 159 of a book will always show if the whole thing is any good, or that track 6 of a CD will instantly define the rest of the entire album. While it is never as mathematically clear as it is with credit card numbers, we can judge books, music, and entire worldviews by looking at a sample of what they produce, or the most basic and foundational ideas behind them. In scripture, we see examples of this in recognizing a plant by its fruit, or in this passage from 1 John:

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Botkin Siblings Talk at the Noah Conference

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Heidi and James and I are at the Noah Conference this weekend, along with a lot of our family and about 2000 friends. We’ve had a lot of great conversations, a lot of exciting stories, and heard a lot of great lectures. Five of the Botkin kids also got to give a talk this afternoon, entitled “What Our Parents Taught Us to Do with Our Lives” where we talked about nine spiritual tools that they gave us to build with.

When our parents were raising us, they gave us specific goals, goals like service, making disciples, meeting needs, and ultimately seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. But they also gave of a lot of tools to help us work to meet those goals. The list of things that our parents worked hard to give us is unending, but for the sake of brevity, my siblings and I sat down and we distilled nine really key tools:

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Calvinball vs. Calvinistball

CalvinballOrganized

Last week Douglas Wilson wrote an excellent blog post mentioning Calvinball, a game invented by Calvin and Hobbes author Bill Watterson. While Wilson’s main point is the need for Christians to maintain consistent definitions in the cultural battles that rage around us, he got me thinking about what a brilliant metaphor Calvinball is for the aggressive relativism of our day.

Bill Watterson, easily the best comic strip writer and artist since Walt Kelly, was an extremely gentle satirist. While he would occasionally poke fun at academic double-speak, the shallowness of mass media, or modern artists, I’m sure that Calvinball was not meant to represent the philosophical system behind post-modern thought. It’s merely the spontaneous creation of an extremely self-centered six-year-old trying to have everything his own way. On second thought, how could the game not exactly reflect the liberal ideal of total moral relativism?

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Calvinball is the perfect representation of a game with no rules, no standards, and nothing to stop you from changing absolutely everything about the game all of the time. As Doug Wilson points out, there’s no point in playing a game, or having a conversation, when the definitions are totally fluid and even the goal of the argument is in flux. For one thing, it becomes impossible keep track of the score.

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Biblical Shepherding: An Example of Eldership

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When I lived in New Zealand, I learned a little bit about the sheep business. It’s handled differently there than in the rest of the world, particularly on the South Island, where sheep farmers run exceptionally large flocks. The typical practice is to send the sheep out to forage for themselves, up into the hills and mountains, and there isn’t much messing around with fences and paddocks. At shearing time, the sheep are mustered together back at the station, usually by part-time hands using dogs and ATVs. After the sheep are sheared and dipped, they get sent back into the wilderness to continue fending for themselves.

New Zealand’s average flock size is 3000 ewes, with an estimated 7000 sheep per shepherd ratio. This farming method really only works because this unique island nation has a very mild climate, a great abundance of forage, and a complete lack of predators. The rest of the world is generally less forgiving to wandering sheep.

In the Bible, we see Jacob and Moses leading their flocks far, far afield in search of food and water. David has to defend his sheep from lions and bears. Psalm 23 describes a shepherd as being constantly close to his flock, providing all of their sustenance, protection, and comfort. He goes into the wilderness with his flock. He experiences all of the same discomforts and dangers that they do, no matter if it is rough terrain, bad weather, or deadly beasts.

While there are many American megachurches that to follow the Kiwi model – sending thousands of sheep wandering into the wilderness to look after themselves, only sporadically rounding them up for fleecing and dipping – the New Testament makes it clear that elders and deacons are meant to imitate the shepherds of the Old Testament. 1 Peter 5, after four chapters of exhorting us to put off unrighteousness and put on more holy behavior, even in trials, says this:

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Choosing the Best Cold Brew Coffee System

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Last week Isaac showed you our own homemade contraption using the Toddy felt filters, mason jars, plastic mason jar caps. Now that I’ve been testing it for a couple of week, I’ve decided what I like best. Here are all the things that I have tested so far:

Toddy Cold Brewer

The system that inspired our experiment was a gadget my sister owns, called the Toddy system. A simple plastic brewing container rests over the top of a carafe or mason jar. You layer coffee and water in the top portion, and let it sit 12-24 hours. Then you remove the cork plug at the base of the plastic container, and it slowly drips through a small felt filter into the mason jar below. Some aficionados claim it produces a clearer, less cloudy brew, since you aren’t stirring or disturbing the grounds as you prepare to filter it. You end up with approximately 5-6 cups of cold coffee at the end, so it doesn’t have a huge capacity. It’s one more gadget that I don’t have room for in my kitchen right now, but I love the simplicity. Also, at $35 for the initial investment, and then $2.50 for felt replacement filters, it’s not cheap.

Isaac’s Hourglass Invention

While this thing was fun to experiment with, it’s a bit of trouble to assemble. Which way does that straw go in? Which side do I screw to which jar? Every time I put it together I felt like it was an IQ puzzle meant to test my spacial awareness. And since it uses the Toddy filters, you still have the downside of needing to occasionally buy new ones. The upside is that I can use the mason jars I already own, the half-gallon jars make enough for almost a whole week for the two of us, and the only cost is teo wide mouth plastic caps, one narrow mouth plastic cap, a little caulk, glue, and a long straw. It works perfectly, but it’s more parts to disassemble, wash, and reassemble.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new Constitution Fails Basic Epistemology

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A couple of weeks ago, celebrity astrophysicist, podcaster, and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson proposed an entire system of global government in a single tweet: “Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.” This concept is admirable for its brevity… but not much else. While this particular hashtag hasn’t exactly gone viral (less than 400 posts so far), it has had a lot of reach (almost 800,000 viewers). It’s also generated a lot of discussion elsewhere, and US News, Slate, and Popular Science have all published op-eds attacking this popular scientist’s idea, and from several different angles.

Popular Science pointed out that science is merely an evolving tool. Slate’s Jeffrey Guhin lammed scientism, claiming that creationists are as scientifically adept as their evolutionist counterparts, and yet despite all this science they are still wrong. Robert F. Graboyes wrote for US News about several blood-soaked times that this “rational society” idea has been tried throughout history, and it’s a good read. We should never forget the “Temples of Reason” that presided over the French Reign of Terror, the sheer bodycount of “scientific socialism,” or the creeping horror of eugenic engineering.

But none of these articles criticizing the idea of science as a holy and pure ideal are complete. It is obvious that definitions of science change, and that imperfect human scientists will have flaws and foibles. It is even obvious that facts are not self-evident and statistics do not speak for themselves. Facts do not judge; they are judged. All evidence must be interpreted. All interpreters will have a lens through which they view the raw data; a worldview that shapes their conclusions.

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