Isaac and Heidi Botkin's blog about Life, Culture, Work and Everything 2017-06-08T23:01:02Z WordPress Isaac Botkin <![CDATA[Making Holsters on the CNC Machine]]> 2017-06-08T23:01:02Z 2017-06-08T23:01:02Z

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.

Isaac Botkin <![CDATA[Tennessee’s Proposed Gas Tax Reveals Our Lawmakers’ Priorities]]> 2017-04-19T13:49:55Z 2017-04-19T13:49:55Z

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.

Isaac Botkin <![CDATA[Build Your Own Real-Time Filesharing and Automatic Backup System]]> 2017-03-04T16:56:44Z 2017-03-04T16:56:44Z

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.

Isaac Botkin <![CDATA[New Remembering WWII Painting]]> 2017-02-21T04:53:46Z 2017-02-21T04:50:55Z 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.



Isaac Botkin <![CDATA[SHOT Show 2017 and New Gun Tech]]> 2017-01-21T02:53:19Z 2017-01-21T02:37:00Z 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.

Isaac Botkin <![CDATA[The Big Takeaway from 2016, and What it Means for 2017]]> 2017-01-07T22:04:32Z 2017-01-07T22:03:54Z 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.

Heidi Botkin <![CDATA[And a Happy New Year!]]> 2017-01-02T18:19:39Z 2017-01-02T18:15:22Z 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

Isaac Botkin <![CDATA[How Free Market Economics Gave Us Cheap Digital Camera Technology]]> 2016-12-19T23:21:47Z 2016-12-19T23:07:26Z sonycameratech

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.


It’s truly amazing to reflect on the vast leaps in resolution, latitude, color rendition, bit-rate, battery life, etc, that these cameras have seen just in just the past few years. From the 1950s until the 1990s, video camera development was actually pretty stagnant, partly because the underlying technologies were developing slowly, but mostly because the market for video cameras was pretty limited and that kept prices high.

At the turn of the century, the slow, methodical advance of electronic cameras turned into an overlapping series of giant leaps forward. A wave of digital inventions, silicon chip developments, and manufacturing changes boosted camera capability, but it was the perfect storm of new media outlets, new platforms, and new customers that drove camera tech cheaper and better at the same time.

At first, it was really only the Big Three networks that needed video cameras, but then a bunch of cable providers needed them, and then a vast VHS market opened up, and now almost every electronic device under the sun has at least one camera. The first cameras installed on cell phones in the early 2000s were grainy, blurry, and took tiny pictures very slowly.

Today, cell phone cameras shoot amazing images, record high resolution and high framerate video, and boast impressive sensitivity in spite of their microscopic lenses. And these tiny CMOS cameras are cheap, cheap enough to find their way into all kinds of kids’ toys. This Christmas I can get a $90 drone with an HD camera that easily outperforms professional cameras I could barely afford to rent ten years ago.

By today’s standards, that plastic drone camera is terrible, but that’s only because today’s dedicated camcorders and DSLRs are so amazing. Sony’s A7sII can see in the dark, their A7rII has a razor sharp 50 megapixel sensor, and the RX100mIV can shoot 960fps and it fits in my pocket! Each of these cameras has impressive stabilization, amazing processing, and records 4K video in a variety of formats.

Another reason we have some of these incredible features is a lack of regulation. Camera sensors are not subject to the same restrictions or oversight as cars, planes, or radio transmitters, and since most users aren’t bound by the FCC’s ancient signal standards, manufacturers can ignore its bureaucratic broadcasting limitations and invent new standards for higher resolution, higher frame rates, and higher dynamic range as quickly as they can invent the technology.

The free market can determine which standards are helpful and which are obsolete must faster than Federal Regulative Busybodies. It should be stated, however, that the legislative feature-demanding and price-fixing that certain bloggers are pining for actually would get us consistent features and pricing across whole camera ranges… but they would be 1990’s features and prices.

For example, one regulation already has resulted in a truly universal camera “feature,” present in all DSLRs and point-and-shoot cameras from Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and just about everyone else. As video recording features began to appear in these cameras around 2007, the EU responded by slapping a new 5-12% import tariff on “video recorders” and arbitrarily defining a video recorder as any device recording more than 30 minutes of video.

While their cameras were technically capable of recording video for as many hours as a 64GB or 128GB card could hold, most camera companies quickly implemented a software limit, preventing their cheaper cameras from recording more than 29 minutes and 59 seconds of video at a time. This dodge kept their cheaper cameras cheap, but it’s a serious and unnecessary crimp in what my 5D and 70D and A7S could be.

So, while part of me does wish that there were some way to mix and match Canon’s proprietary color science with Sony’s patented sensor tech, I’m certainly not asking for bureaucrats to step in and make that happen. It is only the unfettered competition between these various companies that has driven their technical excellence to such dizzying heights and retail pricing to such affordable lows.

Heidi Botkin <![CDATA[James is Thankful Too!]]> 2016-12-03T17:18:36Z 2016-12-02T23:54:11Z mommyandjames

Although James has been a large part of our last two thankfulness posts, we thought we’d let him get in on the action and record all the things that James is thankful for. He’s one of the most enthusiastically cheerful and happy babies I’ve ever known, and his zeal for life is evident in a lot of these shots. He’s a very social baby and loves to be with people, especially his two favorite people in the world: Mommy and Daddy.

This very beloved sheepskin from Uncle Chad and Aunt Becky is indispensable. As soon as he catches a glimpse of it, he immediately lets out a long “oooohhh”, and a huge grin spreads across his face while he pops his thumb into his mouth.


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is in the top few favorite books, and is usually the second thing he asks for in the morning, right after asking for “Da-da”.


James loves to cook, wash dishes and “help” with anything that I’m doing.


Here’s helping at it’s finest. Recently we bought a new-to-us refrigerator off of Craigslist, and while James helped unload everything small from the old fridge, he wanted, of course, to reach the stuff at the back.


James is a pro at helping hang the wet cloth diapers on indoor laundry drying rack, and he very kindly says “Thank you” after handing me each item.


While this broom is a mite big right now, I’m sure that this determined little boy will be sweeping like a champ before long.


Any time that Daddy is home and working with tools, James is right in the middle of the action.


We are all very thankful for the technology that allows us to Skype with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins far away in Colorado. James can get very animated on these calls, and will even jump up and down in excited anticipation when he hears the Skype ring – even before anyone has answered!


James is thankful for Grandfather Botkin, who lives very nearby. Grandfather has fascinating glasses to touch, and he makes up fun games to play with James.


And he also very much loves Papa Roach, who lives far away. Papa Roach has the best elephant noise James has ever heard, and the biggest repertoire of fun kid’s songs that keep James happy on long car rides.


James loves music and can frequently be found dancing to music in our kitchen. He also loves it when aunts help him play the piano and the harp.


Cousins are also a big part of James’ life; and with 7 boy cousins and 1 girl cousin, all under the age of 5, there’s always plenty of excitement, drama and fun!


The rest of James’ days are filled with reading books, stirring up pots of block soup, making animal noises, and playing with toy soldiers.


James is a philosophic baby. He also spends time just looking around and contemplating the world.


James is very thankful for a batch of new puppies this fall, as well as all the other animals that can be found at Grandfather and Grandmother’s house: turkeys, chickens, guineas, cows, dogs and cats.


James is very thankful that Tennessee has so many places to explore… and so many things that live under things!


Towards the end of the day, James starts to ask for Da-da. If Isaac is coming home at a normal hour, which is now after dark, James watches from a window. If Isaac comes home early, we play outside, and James is usually surprised to see the car pull up.


But this week Isaac has been busy trying to catch up with work at T.REX – a mountain of orders after the Black Friday sale – and comes home pretty late and tired. He’s usually just in time to read a few books before James goes to bed.


Even though James can’t talk yet, we can tell that he is thankful by his expressions and noises. As he learns to speak, and can better articulate what is on his mind and heart, we are looking forward to guiding that thankfulness toward God.

Heidi Botkin <![CDATA[Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart]]> 2016-11-26T17:22:57Z 2016-11-26T17:10:35Z jamesstep

Last week Isaac walked through a typical day in our lives, and recounted the many things we have to be grateful for in our every day life. In keeping with this theme, I decided to show you a somewhat less typical day that shows a different part of our lives: Sundays.


Sunday mornings usually start with Isaac and James wrestling on the bed while I make breakfast. I love hearing James shrieking in delight from the other room, and getting to watch Isaac as a daddy fills my heart with joy. I’m really not sure who enjoys these morning romps the most – Isaac or James!

I’m also very grateful to the Lord for giving me such a kind, caring, and gentle man to be my husband, and the father of my child. His care for our little family, and his diligence to provide both physical and spiritual sustenance is another great blessing for which I am very thankful!


Speaking of physical sustenance, Isaac has taken on the job of grinding our coffee beans fresh every morning, and of course James has to get in on the action too. I’m so thankful for how much James wants to be with us, and do everything we are doing. It’s also a very sober reminder of how much he watches and imitates everything we do. And while it may be a bit cliche, coffee is certainly on my list of things to thank the Lord for this year!


While we load up the car, James loves to walk excitedly up and down the sidewalk from the house to the car, watching with anticipation as we prepare for our ride to church. His budding curiosity about everything he sees, hears and touches reminds me daily to be thankful for the little things in life, not just the big things. Bountiful acorns, smooth rocks, crunchy leaves, dripping water, darting squirrels, hovering helicopters, and roaring dump trucks all captivate James’ attention and imagination. How wonderful it is to have healthy bodies that can observe and appreciate all these little blessings the Lord sends each day.


Our drive to church winds through idyllic country roads filled with gorgeous hillsides covered with towering trees, springs bubbling out of layered rocks, and little barns peeking out from each curve in the road. Often we sing Psalms on the way to church, and I’m reminded of the mighty and creative hand of an Almighty God who made all this varying landscape.

Once we get to the church building James loves to traipse up and down the aisles of chairs as we gather for corporate worship. This church body has seen its share of ups and downs, but the Lord has been faithful to care for us, guide us, and to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I’m thankful for the diligent and kind shepherding of our elders and deacons.


Being a mother is one of the greatest blessings of my life; I’m sobered by the responsibility to point this little soul to our Saviour every day, in both word and deed. I’m grateful for all the families in our church that are helping us provide good examples for him.


“Whasdat?” A constant query that never ceases to make me smile:


Isaac and I have a lot that we need to teach James about church, and prayer, and worshiping the Lord, and how be attentive to the sermon. Right now we’re mostly focused on teaching him to sit quietly through the sermon, but that’s just the beginning of a whole life long pursuit of holiness, righteousness, and serving the Lord with all of his heart. We don’t have any pictures of the service itself, but James did a pretty good job this week.

After we are dismissed, the yummy food and sweet fellowship that are part of every Sunday’s shared meal.


James has learned the art of distraction. “Maybe if I am super cute in this high chair, Mommy won’t notice that I’m not eating my healthy food!”


I am thankful for the influence and wisdom of godly Titus 2 women in our church. There are many wise, experienced, loving, kind and gracious mothers in our church, and I have gleaned so much good counsel and advice from women like Mrs. Hall!


When you get these three munchkins together, there’s no telling what kind of adventures will happen… We can’t wait to meet Marian and Alan’s little brother or sister, who is due to arrive any day now! And I’m sure James will be happy to longer be the baby of the group.


Savannah is a beloved playmate who helps keep James out of trouble. She loves children and is such a blessing to our church; she can often be found reading books to a small herd of young children on Sunday afternoon.


I’m so thankful for the many friendships the Lord has given me since moving here to Tennessee two and a half years ago. I’ve been encouraged, strengthened and sharpened by so many Christian brothers and sisters. Often Isaac or I look up from these conversations to find that we are almost the last people left in the building.


And after a long and exhausting day at church, it’s time to head to Grandfather and Grandmother Botkin’s house to relax by the fire and spend the evening with the extended family. We’ve only had one cold week so far, but I’m already grateful for toasty hot fires.


Having doting aunts is certainly one of the great perks of the nephew life. Here Anna plays with the two youngest cousins who are just 19 days apart.


Here we are all gathered in the living room to hear Grandfather tell stories of a recent trip, and to pray for the future of our country. I’m thankful for Dad Botkin’s example of faithfulness to the Lord, and that James gets to observe his ways.


One of the greatest side benefits of marrying Isaac is the great family that I married into! I dearly love all my sisters-in-law, my new parents, and the little pack of nephews and niece that I now get to hang out with. What a perfect ending to a wonderful day!


Isaac told me that writing his blog post last week helped him to to slow down and make time to be thankful for all the things he would usually just skim past and not notice in a normal day. Writing this blog post has helped me in a different way. In some ways this post has been more difficult to write than I had thought it would be, because I found that it was easier to think about and be thankful for all the people and places and things that I used to have in Colorado, rather than being truly thankful for the many, many blessings the Lord has given me here in Tennessee. Of course I miss my family, my friends and my church in Colorado very much, and yet as you can see by this long post full of wonderful gifts from the Lord, I have so much to be thankful for here.

The Lord has certainly filled my cup to overflowing, and I thank the Lord every day for His great mercy and lovingkindness that He has shown me and my little family.

O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Psalm 34:8