Isaac and Heidi Botkin's blog about Life, Culture, Work and Everything Mon, 21 Aug 2017 22:28:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 77615998 The Great American Eclipse (animation) Sun, 20 Aug 2017 03:05:39 +0000

I’ve been doing a lot of space animations lately, so while Heidi and I were talking about the upcoming eclipse this morning, I thought I’d try to simulate it in After Effects. This animation is completely procedural, and everything was built with AE’s built-in plugins, including a pretty believable fake moon. I looked up a lot of reference footage, mostly from the 2012 Eclipse that was best seen in Australia, but in the end I made something realistic, but a little more exaggerated in color and range.

A lot of different elements are simulated here, from atmospheric distortion, to solar flares, to corona effects. If anyone wants to mess around with this animation, I’m including the After Effects project file, which will work in CS6 or later. It doesn’t require any third-party plugins or images, and all the comps are 4k and HDR ready. Get it here:

This was a fun experiment, but I’m looking forward to seeing real footage soon!

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Come to the Noah Conference in Ohio! Sun, 23 Jul 2017 03:51:24 +0000

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!

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Educating for Real Life Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:18:01 +0000

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.

First, our educations prepared us for our work. By figuring out how to teach us at home, our parents demonstrated discipline, and taught us to be self-disciplined. More importantly, they taught us how to learn; how to teach ourselves. Isaac has worked as an employee, freelancer, and manager, in several different fields. Even though he wasn’t trained in every one of those areas, his parents equipped him to train himself and do the work.

Second, our education prepared us to be parents. By having us, and all of our siblings, at home, our parents gave us a front row seat watching how parenting works. We were around to see great parenting in action, all day, every day. Now that we have children of our own, we still feel overwhelmed a lot, but we also have an excellent example to guide us.

Third, our education gave us unique opportunities. Instead of being stuck in classrooms with our peers, our parents took us interesting places and introduced us to fascinating people. Our flexible schedules allowed us to work alongside our parents, serve the Body of Christ, and fight spiritual battles in Kingdom work long before we “graduated.” All of the academic and book-learning parts of education had a very real, practical, hands-on component.

As important as all of those, and so many other things are, it was the way that our parents went about teaching those things that really mattered. Our parents used our home education to show us the real meaning of success, and prepare us for a life of service, sacrifice and a life lived devoted to the Lord (1 Timothy 1:5). They could have told us these things when we got home from government school, but by devoting so much time to us, and making so many sacrifices to keep us close to them gave us an example to follow.

Our parents modeled personal sacrifice by gladly giving up high-powered career options to pursue jobs that would include us kids, work that would provide more opportunities for real-life character and training. They illustrated the meaning of service by bringing us to widow’s homes, pro-life rallies, nursing homes, orphanages, and homeless shelters. They showed us that true success can’t be measured in college degrees, paychecks, number of cars, or even spheres of influence. Success can only be measured using God’s standards (James 1:27).

This is not to say that we had perfect parents, or a perfect education. In fact, our parents would be the first to point out that the first thing that they demonstrated to us was their own imperfection, and their need for repentance and humility, and prayer, and to be constantly relying on the Lord. Thankfully, they daily demonstrated that repentance, humility, and reliance on the Lord.

In short, they saw home education as more than just an alternative to other kinds of school. It was more than just a way to keep us from getting bullied in the locker room, or to make time for other activities, or to get us into a better college. They were trying to make us a part of their daily lives, to involve us in the real world, and teach us to love, honor and glorify the One who made us.

Now, it should be noted that our two families are very different in many ways, and the actual mechanics and subjects of the education were pretty varied. One family taught Latin with varying levels of retention, and the other family had better success with math. Within each family, every child was different, and everyone got a different education, tailored to them.

In fact, our families are different enough that the only things that our respective educations really had in common were those things that we mentioned earlier: being completely involved in our parents’ lives, an emphasis on discipline and character, lots of real-life ministry that allowed our parents to demonstrate our place in the world while still working to protect us from worldly influences (Romans 12:2), a trust in the Lord and study of His Word, and reliance on Him.

This is why we are confident that our parents were able to prepare us for our adult lives, not just for where we are today, but but for wherever we will be tomorrow. We are also confident that if we can teach our own children these Biblical principles that our parents emphasized, and be the same kind of example to them, we will be able to give them the tools they need for wherever the Lord calls them.

Reprinted from the CHEC Homeschool Update
(Volume 2, issue 98, 2017); 720.842.4852,

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Making Holsters on the CNC Machine Thu, 08 Jun 2017 23:01:02 +0000

So, I’ve mentioned earlier about my work with our CNC machine, and a few tools that make that work a little easier, but I haven’t every really described that the work actually entails. Last week I made short video for T-Rex Arms’ Youtube channel showing what that looks like, and most of the steps involved.

That video describes making a specific holster for handguns using the Inforce APL weapon light, but the process is the same for every holster that we make on the machine. First, a precise 3D model is constructed of whatever weapon or light we are making a holster for. Then we adjust the dimensions of that model ever so slightly to give ourselves the right friction and retention and mounting hardware that the holster needs. This adjusted model is carved out of a high density plastic, and then we can vacuum form hot Kydex directly onto this mold.

When the kydex cools, it gets slapped onto a second mold that is still bolted to the CNC machine, and a special endmill drills all the holes and cuts the kydex into the finished shape. As I mentioned in the video, each of these steps takes a couple of tries, but it doesn’t take too long for very precise, very identical holsters to made very quickly.

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Tennessee’s Proposed Gas Tax Reveals Our Lawmakers’ Priorities Wed, 19 Apr 2017 13:49:55 +0000

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.

What this statement is actually saying is that our politicians are “too honest” to wisely use or even return a wad of mistakenly-collected money, and will instead just take more money as they see fit. Apparently they are also “too honest” to ask why they should take money that they don’t need to increase spending in the one area where our state truly excels?

And, speaking of honest politicians, let us ask who benefits from this bill. There are so many conflicts of interest between this bill, its proponents, and its rapid passage through various committees that it is impossible to unwind the entire web. One hesitates to suggest actual corruption, but there are many coincidences and conveniences.

For example, the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Barry Doss is, conveniently enough, a TDOT pre-qualified contractor whose construction company is likely to build some of the new roads this tax will pay for. Even more conveniently, he became Chairman of the Transportation Committee just in time to steamroller this bill over all opposition and all rules.

Also, defenders of the bill really like to cite an official study endorsing the Governor’s gas tax. This study was released by the Boyd Research Center, which is coincidentally named after Randy Boyd, Gov. Haslam’s former director of Economic and Community Development. The Boyd Research Center is, by another amazing coincidence, housed in the Haslam Business School.

Coincidentally, Governor Haslam is also part owner of the Pilot and Flying J gas station chain, which has over 650 locations. Pilot Flying J is the largest seller of terrestrial diesel fuel in the entire country and, conveniently enough, would almost certainly collect some of Haslam’s gas tax. What percentage of the tax they would collect, and how long they could earn interest on it it before remitting it to the state, is unclear. But it is still pretty convenient, especially for a Governor wanting to pass unpopular legislation in his last term.

So who is this bill inconvenient for? Well, anyone who buys gas in Tennessee, especially anyone who is involved in farming, lawn care, manufacturing, construction, transport, or anyone who buys  any products from anyone who buys gas in Tennessee. Last week, I visited our Capitol to ask about this, and a TN rep assured me that the 2017 Tax Cut Act would offset this higher gas cost by reducing the current sales tax by 0.5% on groceries, thus actually providing more of a tax cut than a tax hike. However, he was referring only to “average families of four” and only what they would pay at the gas pump. This is pretty disingenuous.

If we cut sales tax on groceries by 0.5%, but increase the cost of shipping groceries to stores by about 5%, and the cost of producing food by approximately another 5%, cost of food will go up. So, food from-out-of state could be 4.5% more expensive, and locally-grown food could be as much as 9.5% more expensive. That’s right, this bill will seriously affect small Tennessee businesses, even more more than their out-of-state competitors.

Every shipment of materials that a Tennessee entrepreneur buys will have cost 5% more to ship in to this state, plus an additional 5% to ship to his shop if he buys from a local retailer. Every time a contractor starts a tractor or generator it will cost him 5% more to run. And of course, every time a manufacturer ships a completed product to a customer or store, there’s another 5% charge on shipping. This is all added cost before the 3% extra that the “average family of four” must spend to just get to that store. All these compounding increases can not possibly be offset by a 0.5% tax cut on a few grocery categories.

And more worrisome than the gas tax itself is the attitude behind it. It’s true that a mere 7 cents extra per gallon is not going to drive away existing companies that already have sunk costs in the state (especially those large companies that are already friendly with Haslam and already get special exemptions). However, the attitude behind this gas tax is something that could repel businesses that were planning on building long-term operations in this state.

It is painfully clear that everyone in the capital knows that this is a bill that will be bad for Tennesseans, and Tennessee overall. The sheer haste in trying to pass it, the bullying of legislators who balked at the new party line, the attempts to avoid attention, the dodges with amendments and renaming attempts once people began to notice, the bald-faced lies about what Tennessee taxes already are… all of these things demonstrate that even its supporters are ashamed of it.

This is a bill that will benefit our Governor’s private business interests and the few politicians that can leverage them. Everybody else will pay for it, at more places than the gas pump, and in more ways than we can foresee.

If you live in Tennessee, contact your Representatives and Senators today, before they vote on this bill tonight. Let them know that you are disturbed by this bill, but that you are even more disturbed by the way that it is being handled, spun, cloaked, lied about, rebranded, and forced through committees without being truly discussed.

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Build Your Own Real-Time Filesharing and Automatic Backup System Sat, 04 Mar 2017 16:56:44 +0000

A few months ago, Heidi and I bought a desktop computer. We each have working laptops, and while my trusty old Surface Pro 2 shows no sign of slowing down, I’m doing more with 4K video these days and needed something with a little more power. As fast as today’s laptops are, yesterday’s desktop computers offer considerably more bang for your buck, especially with the ability to cheaply add more RAM, more screens, more hard drives, and more GPUs, which are pretty useful for video production.

Since Heidi and I were going to share this machine, I wanted a way to put all of our laptop files on it, so each of us would have all of our work available, regardless of which computer we were using. The tricky part is keeping all of those files up-to-date, so that any change that Heidi makes to a spreadsheet on her laptop get synchronized to the copy of that spreadsheet sitting on the desktop computer. The easy way to do this is simply to store all the files on the desktop and let the laptop just open them over the network, but then she wouldn’t see any of her files if the desktop computer was off or she wasn’t connected to the network.

Today, most people solve this problem by storing files on Google Drive or Dropbox, or some other file sharing service in The Cloud. In addition to keeping files synchronized between as many computers as you like, it also lets users see those files from any web browser. This is handy, but there are several downsides. Dropbox is not secure, only as fast as your internet connection, and, if you’ve got hundreds of gigabytes of video files for each project, kind of expensive. Even for smaller files, it’s remarkably inefficient. From here in Tennessee, my data usually has to hop through more than a dozen servers just to get to Dropbox in San Francisco. I’d rather not send a sensitive document all the way across the country and then back, especially when I’m just moving it to a laptop sitting five feet away.

The best solution I have found is FreeFileSync. It is, as the name suggests, free, and it’s also open source, and operates without ever needing to connect to the internet. Its main downside is a lack of comprehensive documentation for what I wanted to use it for, so it took me a bit of experimenting to get it set up, and that’s why I’m writing these instructions now. If you want real-time file-syncing between more than two computers, read on.

Essentially, FreeFileSync allows you to link two directories, which can be anywhere on the computer or network, and the software will synchronize those two directories. It can be two-way communication, keeping these two folders absolutely identical regardless of which one changes, or a one-way transfer that simply copies everything from Directory A to Directory B, regardless of what is in Directory B. That one-way sync is ideal for backups, but I wanted real-time two-way syncing.

There are three main ways that you can use the software. You can select the directories you want synced and then just hit the transfer button manually whenever you want files to be copied, or you can set up a task to be scheduled and run at certain times, or you can let the program run in the background, constantly watching for changes to a directory and then copying files every time they are created or updated.

Now, I recommend that anyone planning to use it skim through the manual before setting it up. Bear in mind that if you are not careful you can cause file conflicts, save over documents, and if you delete a file in one place it will disappear in the other. There are safeguards against these things, but just remember that any program with the power to move and delete your files can, well, move and delete your files.

When I first started messing with it, I wasn’t entirely sure how it worked. Turns out it’s actually pretty simple. You install FreeFileSync, open it, and create a task, which you then export as a batch file that you can run later. You don’t need server and client side apps for syncing; as long as one computer can see the others on a network, it’s the only one that needs to run the software. I installed it on the desktop, because what I wanted to do is this:

The simpler your file management system is, the easier this is to set up. Heidi stores all of her files in a single directory on the C: drive of her laptop, which is named “Klara.” So, I created a job called “SyncKlara” that synchronizes “C:\Heidi” on her laptop with “C:\Heidi” on the desktop, then saved that as a batch file. I have work files in a bunch of directories on my Surface’s D: drive, and so I linked those to identically named directories on the desktop’s D: drive, and saved that job as a batch file.

Now, inside FreeFileSync’s folder, is another program called RealTimeSync.exe, which does the real time observation of the directories so it knows when new files have been created or old files have been updated. To tell RealTimeSync.exe to load our batch files, we need to create shortcuts that link both to it and the batch files that we created earlier. That link, depending on where you put your batch files, looks like this: “C:\Program Files\FreeFileSync\RealTimeSync.exe” “C:\Program Files\FreeFileSync\SyncSurface.ffs_batch”

Since I have two computers that I want to sync, and I have two batch files, I made two shortcuts and am going to be running two instances of RealTimeSync. Putting these two shortcuts in Window’s startup directory (just for reference: %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup) means that next time I reboot I will see two tasks running in my taskbar; one job for each of the two laptops. A red icon means monitoring for changes, green means copying, and grey means the other computer is offline.

The end result works very well. If Heidi wants to work on spreadsheets using the desktop’s two big monitors, all her files are there. If she decides to move to the couch, she just needs to save what she’s doing, close it to prevent conflicts, and all the updated files jump to her laptop as soon as she wakes it up.

If I want to tweak some After Effects projects while I’m at the shop waiting for the CNC machine to warm up, I have everything on my Surface. When I get home and want to render those projects on a beefier computer, I only need to power up my laptop, wait a few moments for the new After Effects files to be copied over, and I’m ready to go.

Also, we have the added security of all of our work files being in two places at the same time. If any of these three drives dies, we still have everything. Of course, I’m still occasionally backing everything up to our giant external drive, but now I’m doing that automatically with a third (scheduled) task in FreeFileSync, and rather than back up the laptops one at a time, I can just grab all the data from the desktop in one shot.

This sort of setup could be done using Dropbox or Google Drive, but only at the speed of our poky rural-Tennessee internet, and everyone from AT&T to the NSA could see our files flying back and forth across the country all day. Our entirely local FreeFileSync solution means that our files are kept up-to-date as fast as Wi-Fi or ethernet can go, we have everything we need even when we travel away from working internet, and all the software runs on our home network, not our laptops.

It seems like everything is moving into The Cloud these days. Pretty much every computing task, either processing, interfaces, or storage, is being done on giant server farms. But personal computers are fast, network hardware is cheap, and even individual hard drives are huge. More importantly, there are some significant advantages to doing things locally. Next time you need some kind of software solution, on a desktop, a laptop, or a phone, think about what you can do offline, with local resources, before signing up for the newest and easiest server-based service.

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New Remembering WWII Painting Tue, 21 Feb 2017 04:50:55 +0000 SuribachiPainting

Last year, I created a poster for the annual Remembering WWII event. The 2016 event had an Air Force theme, and I went with an Art-Deco design that had a kind of “Golden Age of Flight” feel to it, like some of the posters from early in the war. This year’s event centers on the Marine Corps, and there is no more visually iconic moment in Marine Corps history than the Iwo Jima flag-raising on February 23 of 1945.

I painted a version of the famous Rosenthal photo, with just a few alterations; opening up the flag, shortening the flagpole, and increasing the height of Mount Suribachi. The painting style should also be more reminiscent of some of the illustrators of the late 40s, but I didn’t really have time to copy anyone specific, unfortunately. The end result does look like fast oil illustrations of the day, though, especially when placed in a poster layout that is much more like the later War Department posters from 1945:


Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo is actually of the second flag raising. Marines had planted a smaller flag when they captured the mountain earlier that morning, but the larger second flag was visible from the beach and greatly improved morale. Despite the fact that the island of Iwo Jima is only four miles long, it took five days of hard fighting to reach its 500-ft high summit.  Even after Marines captured the mountain, the battle raged for another 20 days, claiming the lives of three of the six flag raisers.



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SHOT Show 2017 and New Gun Tech Sat, 21 Jan 2017 02:37:00 +0000 BrevisSupressor

Every year at SHOT Show, fun new tools and technologies are launched. The Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show is a giant event centered on recreational shooting and hunting gear, but it also has become a place for police and military equipment to be demonstrated. And while there are a lot of very cool new gadgets this year, like tiny thermal scopes for less than $2,000, or brand new pistols from brand new manufacturers, the most interesting technologies I read about this week weren’t actually announced at SHOT Show.

Delta P Design has begun selling a brand new titanium suppressor, which is made entirely on a 3D printer. There are other companies, in America and New Zealand, who have been creating suppressors with 3D printers, usually out of titanium or inconel superalloys, but the Brevis II has a new design that makes the most of this manufacturing technique. First, it is extremely small, only 3.7 inches long. DPD is utilizing a mysterious interior design that replaces the traditional baffles with some new structure, probably something that couldn’t be created any way other than 3D printing.

This also makes it extremely light, weighing less than 10 ounces, and made entirely in one piece, with no joins, bolts or welds. Despite the small amount of metal that it is made of, it is able to contain the blast of a high-pressure rifle round. This tiny suppressor isn’t going to set any records for quietest silencer ever made, but it is incredibly impressive how quiet it is considering that it is smaller and lighter than most muzzle brakes. It is so unobtrusive that it’s almost like adding a flash suppressor to a rifle, rather than a fully capable sound suppressor.

Interestingly, shortly after reading a review of the Brevis II, I got an email from the 3D printing service Sculpteo, announcing that they were offering a new titanium printing capability. Their new machines use direct laser sintering to create a solid object, rather than the older carrier method which involved tiny crumbs of metal loosely stuck together in a much weaker form than you would need for real metal machine parts.

(Of course, before you design and print your own suppressor, remember that there a lot of hoops to jump through before you can legally manufacture or possess one. In 1934, Congress passed the National Firearm Act, which created those hoops for anyone wanting to own an automatic weapon, short-barreled weapon, or silencer. Gangsters had famously been using Tommy guns and sawed-off shotguns prior to this legislation passing, and believe it or not, they continued to use those weapons for murder and mayhem even after the NFA passed.

Suppressors, on the other hand, haven’t really been used in violent crimes. Not in the 1930s, and not today. Every year 15 or 20 people are charged with unlawful possession of silencers, but cases where that silencer was attached to a gun used in a crime are terribly, terribly rare. That hasn’t stopped the BATFE from cracking down on lawful supressor ownership, of course. Hopefully, our current legislators will pass the Hearing Protection Act, which would remove silencers from the NFA and allow you to begin printing your own.)


The other cool technique I read about was a method of rifling a barrel using electro-chemical machining. This is the exact opposite of electroplating, since the electrical current is removing material from a metal surface instead of depositing it, but it is just as precise and just as fast. Weaponsman described it as being very much early experiment, but very impressive. It would be equally suited to mass production or home tinkering. After all, you can make a uniformly rifled steel barrel (without affecting its heat treating) in just minutes with only a 12v battery charger and a bucket of salt water. Extremely impressive.

Obviously, there was a lot of neat stuff at SHOT show, like endless variations of AR-15s, and endless polymer-framed striker-fired non-Glock pistols, and other examples of gear honed by several incremental revisions to reliable, if bland, perfection. I just tend to be interested in the more experimental stuff, like a new type of weapon sight, or new features in hearing protection, or a new way to carry extra ammo.

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The Big Takeaway from 2016, and What it Means for 2017 Sat, 07 Jan 2017 22:03:54 +0000 2017odometer

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.

Which brings us to the mainstream media. Certain TV networks knowingly released heavily-manipulated polls, and then seemed legitimately surprised when these turned out to be inconsistent with reality. These large and established networks promised to get the bottom of the mysterious election results, which is kind of like the fox explaining why putting foxes in charge of the chicken coop didn’t work out. Their conclusion? The problem was “Fake News,” created by less-reliable journalists than themselves.

Hillary’s own campaign released some even more heavily-doctored polls, and seemed even more surprised when those weren’t accurate either. It was like the entire Left-wing crowd forgot not to trust their own propaganda, but their biggest shock was when their very own strategy of identity politics backfired on them.

Ever since the 60’s, leftist politicos have suggested that people should get their political ideals from some larger group bandwagon, not from personal principles or conscience or thinking, or anything like that. These group bandwagons, in turn, should get their ideals and identities from, well, leftist politicos.

For the last few decades we’ve all seen these special interest groups being endlessly defined and re-defined, sometimes tiny minorities being split into even tinier minorities, sometimes whole blocks of them getting “unified” under a new label so they could be convinced to vote for new things. It’s like gerrymandering, but for people’s minds.

In the middle of November, Michelle Obama went on TV and reminded viewers that all black people must vote a straight Democratic ticket, regardless of who is on that ticket or what they might have done or said in the past. A few weeks later, political commenters were deeply, deeply offended that many white people had voted Republican, regardless of what some guy on that ticket had done or said. It just wasn’t fair for uneducated white people – not an officially recognized group – to vote as if they were part of a group.

Then the blame-shifting revealed more inconsistencies! When China stole millions of military and intelligence records by hacking the Office of Personnel Management, President Obama said little and did nothing. When Russian hackers grabbed a few private emails of the Democratic Party, he expelled Russian diplomats and applied swift, stiff sanctions.

To be fair, the Red Chinese only took all the documents describing the security clearances and backgrounds of all of our soldiers and spies, merely jeopardizing their lives at home and abroad, while the Russians may have been trying to commit the ultimate international offence: influencing an election. Oh, by the way, does anyone remember that time Obama made an official visit to the U.K. just so he could tell Freeborn Englishmen how they should vote on Brexit?

I could go on and on. 2016 brought us no shortage of hypocrisy. The ridiculousness of an all-inclusive political correctness that demands we say nice things about a mass-murdering tyrant like Fidel Castro and boycott the next Presidential Inauguration is painfully self-evident.

Unfortunately, the media, the DNC, and the progressives don’t have a monopoly on hypocrisy. We conservative Christians have been plenty inconsistent on our own. We were quick to condemn Obama for his transsexual bathroom policy, but strangely quiet when George W. Bush appointed our first homosexual ambassador. I heard many complaints about the recent Executive Order protecting Planned Parenthood, but very few comments about the billions of dollars that Bush gave them during his two terms.

The problem is that we’ve fallen victim to identity politics too. The media told us that George Bush was “our guy” in the White House, and so we accepted the DHS, the TSA, and the Patriot Act right up until the “other guy” took over. Today, we’re being told that Trump is “our guy.” After all, the same folks that made up those great pre-election polls have some new polls proving that more evangelicals voted for Trump than any other President since Constantine.

Personally, I don’t buy that, but it really doesn’t matter. I so enjoyed watching the media panic on election night that I almost wished I had voted Trump. It’s been so fun watching the progressives wig out as he pokes holes in their precious political correctness that I kinda want him to be “our guy.” I have so much hope that he’ll keep roasting sacred cows that I’m starting to think of him as “our guy.”

But that’s not an option for Christians. Unlike the relativists who are blown about by every wind of inconsistent political theories, we have an unchanging, perfect, Transcendent standard. We don’t have to blindly follow a set political party, and we don’t get to relax and let whoever “our guy” is this term define right and wrong for us. Our God has already done that, and He doesn’t like hypocrisy.

This will be the big challenge for Christians in 2017. It’ll be hard to overcome the temptation to claim that we won that last election. It’ll be hard to demand that our representatives offer more than mere lip-service to Christian morality. It’ll be hard not to leta few things slide here and there if we think they could be strategic retreats. It’ll be hard not to just shrug off the problems that “our guys” have just because they are “our guys.” But if we fail on any of these points, we’ll be just as inconsistent and hypocritical as everyone that we laughed at last year.

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And a Happy New Year! Mon, 02 Jan 2017 18:15:22 +0000 2016familyphoto

2016 was full of the many blessings, much laughter and joy, numerous lessons learned and trials endured, many friendships and relationships deepened, and through it all we have seen the loving, kind, and gracious hand of the our Lord guiding and sustaining us day by day. We look forward to 2017 with great joy and expectation of the work and sanctification that the Lord has in store for us.

That they should put their confidence in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep His commandments.
Psalm 78:7

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