Come to the Noah Conference in Ohio!

Heidi and I (and sometimes James, when we remind him of it) are anticipating a family adventure next month as we drive up to Cincinnati for the 2017 Noah Conference, partly because we’ll see Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter again, but also because of all the great folks that will be at the main conference event! We really enjoyed this event last year, and were extremely encouraged by the speakers that we heard. And we’re pretty sure that James will be able to soak in more this year, especially at the Ark, where we are looking forward to showing him all the exhibits and the biggest boat he’s ever seen. (Boats and fishing are some of his top interests right now, but he’s never considered anything on this scale!)

Registration includes tickets to the Ark Encounter on August 10th, and 2 full days at the conference held at a nearby church on the 11th and 12th. There will be messages from Kevin Swanson, Ken Ham, Scott Brown, Emeal Zwayne, Israel Wayne, and lots of others. I’ll be on a panel with my brothers talking about some of the lessons we’ve learned from the last few years of running T-Rex Arms, and Heidi will be on a panel about cross-generational faithfulness.

We are looking forward to a time of encouragement and fellowship, and an opportunity to meet new friends and catch up with old ones. And don’t miss out on the the free Saturday night pizza party to wrap up the event!

Educating for Real Life

A few months ago, we were asked to write an article for CHEC’s homeschooling magazine about how we were homeschooled. We have, of course, talked a lot about how we were raised, the ways we want to imitate our parents, the things things we would like to do differently, and the many differences that we see between our two families. However, when we sat down to condense all those conversations into this short article, we were a little surprised by how many identical conclusions our respective parents came to, and how many of them we want to stick to.

When Heidi and I were born, our respective parents began to pray about how we should be educated. When they choose to teach us at home, it wasn’t for lack of options; Isaac’s parents lived in Washington D.C. suburbs completely surrounded by private schools, and Heidi’s father was actually teaching at a well-respected Christian school in Ohio.

And even in those early days of home education, there were various co-ops and pre-packaged curricula that they could have used, ways of moving a “regular” education from classroom to home without any other major changes. These would have been easier, faster, and in many ways cheaper than how our parents ended up teaching us. But they wanted to give us educations that were completely different in their focus, not just their location.

To do so was hard, time-consuming, and expensive in many ways. We’ve watched our parents change careers, take massive pay cuts, and move across the country (or around the world) just so they could teach us diligently and according to their understanding of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:7). Today, they would say that it was all worth it, and so would we. Their efforts have perfectly prepared us for where we are today, and what we are doing.

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Tennessee’s Proposed Gas Tax Reveals Our Lawmakers’ Priorities

This week, many of our senators and representatives are doing their best to pass a large, unnecessary, expensive, and unpopular tax bill, mostly as a favor to our Governor. As usual, Republicans who ran on promises of lower taxes are finding themselves pushing a large tax increase that will damage their constituents. Watching how they respond to this difficulty is very educational, and we should be watching closely when this bill reaches the House floor tonight.

Rather than oppose the bill, which was proposed by Governor Haslam and will add a substantial tax to all gasoline and diesel fuel sold in this state, many have engaged in all kinds of misdirection, chicanery, and nonsense to disguise the bill’s true purpose and intent. For example, last week the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee renamed the bill “The 2017 Tax Cut Act” even though it is the literal, exact, complete opposite of a tax cut.

The bill’s supporters have added and retracted various amendments at strategic times as it sped through its various committees, violated congressional procedure to expedite its passage, and done everything possible to force Republican support. At one point, for example, it contained a small property tax cut for some military veterans, until the CVA demanded that politicians stop using vets to guilt other reps into taxing non-vets.

The events surround this bill are so shady that the kindest and most complimentary thing that can be said about it is that it is completely and totally superfluous. After all, this is a bill to raise taxes when our state is enjoying a $2 Billion surplus, and it’s raising the tax to build roads when Tennessee is ranked second (or third, or fourth, depending on the study) in the nation on our road quality and infrastructure. Of course, some have argued that our $2 Billion surplus was collected for other things, and Tennessee is “too honest” a state to just reallocate that money as we see fit. This sounds like a good and noble argument… until you think about it.

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The Big Takeaway from 2016, and What it Means for 2017

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I’m noticing a lot of doom-and-gloom moping in other editorials summing up 2016, mostly because Donald Trump won the election, and a lot of celebrities died. Morbidity and mortality aside, the thing that most vividly stands out to me from 2016 was the ludicrously wild inconsistency. Some of the loudest voices clamoring for subjective morality and tolerance have suddenly become the loudest voices clamoring for absolutism and rejection.

Now, as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve heard relativists insist that there is no absolute truth, and then instantly demand absolute adoption of their viewpoint. I’ve seen radicals insist on total and complete tolerance for everything, and then in the same breath demand that someone else be violently un-tolerated. I’m no stranger to double standards and incoherent oxymorons, but 2016 exceeded all my expectations for such lunacy.

As you might guess, most of it revolved around the presidential election, but things didn’t get really crazy until after the votes were cast. You want some examples? In early December an architectural group floated an idea to hide the Trump Tower logo with giant inflatable pig balloons, in order to protect the sensitive eyes of New Yorkers from that micro-aggression that is the name of their President-Elect.

After calling Trump hateful and illogical, they described their balloon plan as “a gesture in support of those of more rational, optimistic and inclusive minds.” But apparently minds that aren’t optimistic enough to handle reminders of the election results, or inclusive enough to stand the sight of a hated name. This is more a gesture of stopping one’s ears and pretending not to hear.

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How Free Market Economics Gave Us Cheap Digital Camera Technology

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Today I was looking over a few camera accessories that I might want to purchase before the end of the year, and was reminded of how good we videographers and photographers have it, technically speaking. It seems only yesterday that I was wrestling with the almost crippling limitations of tube cameras and tape recorders to try to get images that looked cinematic, decent, or even discernible… and today I take modern camera technology for granted.

In the last 20 years I’ve gone from terrified that I might permanently burn out the pickup tubes of a $30,000 BetaCam camera, to frustrated that a $9,000 HDV camera isn’t compatible with certain broadcast standards, to slightly peeved that I can’t get absolutely every feature I want in a $400 camera (and those numbers, by the way, are not adjusted for inflation).

And in reading through various reviews and blogs and forums today, I noticed that lots of folks are peeved that they can’t get the perfect camera yet; a magical camera that could combine the best features and patents from multiple companies. My perfect camera, for example, would be a small mirrorless body combining Canon’s autofocus technology and color science, Sony’s most sensitive image sensors, Olympus’s in-body stabilization, Panasonic’s wifi remote, and Blackmagic’s high-bitrate recording formats.

Some commenters have complained that this magical camera doesn’t exist because of too much competition in the in the market, not enough government regulation of features, and that darn old capitalism letting greedy camera makers keep the prices too high. This is an odd sentiment, since I can’t think of any product or field of technology that has benefited more from competition, lack of regulation, and free market economics than digital video cameras.

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How Bad Economic Theory Helped Trump Win

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In case you hadn’t noticed, America had an election last week. I was looking forward to the hysterical rhetoric settling down after the final count came in, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon. Anti-Trump protestors are burning cars, burning products made by pro-Trump companies, and burning up the airwaves blaming everyone they can think of for Hillary’s loss and the end of democracy.

But several commentators that I’ve been listening to on NPR place the blame for our new president-elect squarely on those actually responsible – the voters. The polite ones blame “white working-class voters,” and the less polite ones blame “white uneducated voters,” but they are talking about the same folks: lower-income blue-collar types who have traditionally voted Democrat and were assumed to be Democrat-for-life. Long-time Clinton crony James Carville seemed utterly despondent about the future of the DNC after this treachery, but other democratss are optimistic, since they believe that working-class people will soon be a thing of the past.

After all, they pointed out, we live in the app economy now! The future of America is in super-liberal Silicon Valley, and all future voters are in liberal colleges and universities this very minute, getting the degrees that their idiotic, republican-voting parents never got. Actually, this week those students are demanding a break from studying so they can bemoan the horror of a Trump presidency, but they’ll get back to getting those degrees soon. While everyone else is trying to divide the vote into old and young, hateful and inclusive, uneducated and enlightened, white and unwhite, I’d like to talk about this crazy idea of a future without working-class people.

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How Many Guns are in the United States?

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There are a lot of magic numbers in journalism – numbers that get thrown around so often and are so well known that they simply must be true, even though there are never any citations of research or studies mentioned. One such magic number is “approximately 300 million,” which is apparently how many privately owned firearms are floating around the United States. This number kind of makes sense if you don’t really think about it. After all, there’s “approximately 300 million” Americans in the USA, some of whom own guns and some of whom do not. Seems like that would even out and make that a good estimate. However, I’ve been hearing about “approximately 300 million” guns since I was a kid, and I know that there have been an awful lot of firearms purchased since then. Let’s look at some hard data.

Of course, the United States does not have a central firearm registry database, so there is no hard data on exactly how many guns exist here. But, because NICS background checks are required for all non-private firearm sales (even gun show sales), we could have a pretty good idea of how many guns are being bought and sold… sort of. Not every background check equals a gun sale, because some folks can’t actually pass the background check. This is apparently only about 0.6% of would-be purchasers. On the other hand, one background check often means one person buying multiple firearms, so all we can say for sure is that a lot of background checks must mean a lot of gun sales.

And there have been an awful lot of background checks! From 1999 until 2008 they averaged around 10 million per year, and then began steadily climbing until the 23 million checks we had last year. NICS has run over 225 million background checks in total, and if merely a quarter of those purchases were two guns instead of one, then there have been “approximately 300 million” firearms bought by private citizens in the last 17 years alone!

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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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Calvinball vs. Calvinistball

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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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Brexit Revisited

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It’s now been one week since the historic vote for British Independence, and the Brexit celebration and the Brexit panic have been colliding ever since. The Pound has yet to recover from that panic, but the $3 trillion dollars that journalist claimed had been evaporated, vaporized, or wiped out of the global markets has mostly come back. Amazing, how wealth can vanish into thin air, and then just as quickly reappear, right out of thin air, just like that.

Anyhow, in the last week, Britain’s angry “Remainers” have had time to publicly demand that their politicians not listen to public demands, and the EU’s angrier officials have been constantly breathing out threats and demands against the UK. In addition to possible embargoes and boycotts, the EU is how moving to punish British voters by banning the appliances that make their beloved tea and toast. There is even talk of war.

Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, has fretted that without the EU’s protection and advice, the UK and other European powers might be plunged into foolish and costly foreign wars (like the recent Gulf wars, perhaps?). Some analysts have gone further, suggesting that the only thing preventing bloody wars between European nations has been the benevolent oversight of the European Union. Without its British backing, the collapse of the EU is possible, which these fearmongers say would immediately spark a new series of European Wars, possibly a new World War.

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