Welcome to our New Blog!

Isaac, Heidi, and James

We are Isaac, Heidi, and James Botkin, and we live in middle Tennessee. We got married in May of 2014, and our son was born September 2015. Isaac is a designer and filmmaker who has worked in a variety of media in several countries, and now runs his own design firm. He has been writing about culture and ideas sporadically for several years. Heidi is a helpmeet, mother, homemaker, chef, advisor, and she provides the order and structure needed to implement a small number of the crazy ideas Isaac generates. She is learning to enjoy writing, even when the sink is full of dishes. James is a baby. He doesn’t write much yet, since he is only one month old.

We are attempting to create a very simple family-portfolio-commentary-diy-review-design-homemaking-news-theology-art-sewing-debate-photo-security-crafts-guns-cooking-political-technology blog. The reason for such a scattered and diverse set of topics is that we are going to write about the things that we talk to each other about, and the things that we are interested in. It won’t always cover what we are doing, or the most important international news of the day, but it will be based on conversations that we are having with one another, with our friends, and the conversations and lessons that we would like James to be part of or learn from… if he were older.

So if we can’t narrow down the topics that this blog will cover, we can narrow down its purpose. We are trying to accomplish 5 things:

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Dr. Ben Carson and Government Assistance

Dr. Ben Carson

I just saw an interesting article in The Washington Post, which criticized Dr. Ben Carson’s position on welfare programs and his desire to create an environment where government handouts are no longer required.

For those that don’t know, Dr. Carson’s mother refused to accept most of the government assistance that was available to her when she raised her family alone in the slums of Detroit. Washington Post columnnist Jim Tankersley says that this fact is irrelevant, and Ben Carson’s low opinion of public assistance is wrong, because his neighbors took lots of government money back then, and the people of Detroit still take lots of government money now, and they are still poor!

Somehow, the fact that Detroit is a bottomless money pit proves that these Government programs are not just needed but beneficial, even though Tankersley admits that success stories from its inner city are rare. One success story? After several decades of hard work, Sonya Carson’s son is now a a respected and successful neurosurgeon who has a decent shot among neurosurgeon salaries 2017, and at becoming President of the United States. To contrast, after several decades of State and Federal handouts, Detroit looks like this:

Back to the Future’s VFX


Today is “Back to the Future Day;” October 21st, 2015. This is the day that Doc and Marty traveled to the future in Back to the Future 2. That film was a visual effects extravaganza, featuring incredible optical composites of future skylines and flying cars, matte paintings of ruined cities, detailed miniature and model setups, and incredibly complicated motion control shots that enabled actors to interact with themselves in old age makeup – all before the days of digital animation!

The original Back to the Future, on the other hand, despite being a classic sci-fi time-travel film, only has about a dozen visual effects shots. Its effects are basically limited to the lightning in the sky above the clock tower, the lightning bolts traveling along cables, and the sparks and comets that surround the DeLorean as it accelerates to 88 miles per hour to break the time barrier. All of those effects were managed by Industrial Light and Magic animator and supervisor Wes Takahashi, and then composited together by John Ellis’s team on ILM’s massive optical printers.

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Hillary Clinton’s Hilarious Email Caper

I hadn’t been planning to talk about the email scandal, but last night, during the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders indignantly declared that the American people have heard quite enough about the emails. Apparently, I disagree.

Hillary Laughing

As we all know, Hillary Clinton was the United States Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. During her entire time in that distiguisehd office, she ran all of her official email communication through a personal email server kept in a closet in her private home. Her email address was “hdr22@clintonemail.com” rather than “secretary@state.gov”. She claims this was purely for convenience, but it also allowed her to avoid disclosing any of her communications to the State Department.

Now, the current administration’s Justice Department announced that it was legally OK for Clinton to own and use a private email server, just as it would be for any of us, but there are several layers of complexity here. The first issue regards potentially mishandling classified data, which can certainly be a crime. Then there’s a long list of regulations on how federal records must be maintained and recorded, violations of which are bad. And thirdly, there is a general obtuseness and shadiness with which Clinton discusses her communications which, well, is the typical general obtuseness and shadiness with which Clintons tend to communicate.

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A Bit About the RPG-7

Afghan Soldier firing RPG

Like the AK-47, the RPG-7 is a Soviet weapon that was developed shortly after WWII using lessons learned from direct interaction with German military theory, a weapon which rapidly became ubiquitous in modern war and has been widely used in most parts of the world for more than 50 years. If you’ve watched action movies or war news, you have certainly seen this weapon in use. If you’ve traveled in Africa or the Middle East, you’ve probably seen it in person.

RPG stands for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot, which means “hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher.” In English we call it a Rocket Propelled Grenade, but the warhead is a little more complicated than your average grenade. It was built to defeat Cold War-era tank armor, and it uses a very focused shaped charge to penetrate up to 20 inches of hardened steel. You can see the powerful cutting jet that the explosive creates in this video:

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T-Rex T-Shirt Design

Fight LIke T-Rex

Any day that you can draw a Tyrannosaurus Rex using modern military hardware is a good day, and I think Bill Waterson would agree with me! Dinosaurs are always fun to draw, particularly the majestic T-Rex. A technical note: since the shirt was being printed with water-based discharge inks, rather than opaque plastisol inks, I had to do a little research and planning. It ended up needing three color separations, first white, which was actually a bleach, and then black ink, and then red ink. Now discharge inks behave more like dyes than ink on paper, so it ended up being a six-color print; essentially two passes on parts of each of these separations using different inks.

Three Ink Layers

The team at Threadbird did an excellent job with the actual printing, and so this t-shirt is currently available from the fine holstermakers at T-Rex Arms.