This fall, Heidi and I have been reading some books by James Herriot. His memoirs look at the life of a country veterinarian in northern England, during the 1930s and 40s. This is a fascinating but difficult time, before the discovery of antibiotics, and before British farming was really mechanized. However, what really stands out about his books is his tremendous attitude of joyfulness and thankfullness. Despite the incredibly hard work and often harsh weather, Herriot is overflowing with gratitude for the opportunities that he was given, the wonders that God has created, and the blessings that he received, great or small.
I have been convicted by how ungrateful I can be when my life is so much more comfortable than a country vet’s, and so much better than I deserve. For the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Heidi and I are trying to be more diligent about marking our blessings and thanking God for them. Because I don’t have James Herriot’s incredible grasp of the English language or storytelling ability, I’m going to rely on pictures to describe a day in my life.
This is who I get to see first, every day:
…and this is who I get to see second:
Those two pictures alone prove that I am indescribably, unfathomably, unbelievably blessed. But there’s more. So much more:
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.
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!
Ever since Heidi and I made our gospel map, we’ve been really excited to see all the places that it has gone. We’ve shipped it all over the world, the video has been watched millions of times on various social media platforms, and now it’s going to be (briefly) on display in a museum! GISMO NYC is a forum for folks in the geographic information systems industry, and this weekend they have an event at the Queens Museum where our Gospel Map will be included, both in print and animated forms.
It looks like a really neat free event with some great speakers, so if you happen to be in New York this weekend, you can stop by to look in on new mapping techniques and various maps, including ours. If you aren’t able to make it, you can always get the print version of our map from The Western Conservatory, and watch the animated version here:
I really enjoy seeing how other designers are using maps to communicate information, or converting other types of data into maps, and I wish I were going to be there. Also, I just realized that we finished that project over two years ago. I’ve been mostly busy with product design and CNC projects lately, and I find that I am itching to make some new maps or build some new data visualizations. Anyone have any ideas?
When I’m sitting at my computer, I usually do Bible study using Blue Letter Bible or e-Sword, depending on whether or not I have internet, but when I’m anywhere else, with internet or not, I use AndBible on my phone. I was going to write up a blog post on all the things I like about it and how to use it, but then I thought it might be easier to demonstrate it in a video.
It’s definitely my kind of software; simple, functional, and it even has a dark color scheme. There are no user accounts, no sticker packs, and no way to put emoji in your favorite verses. Everything works, everything works offline, and it’s really obvious how everything works. If you have an Android device, make sure you check it out.
A couple of months ago, when we were at the Noah Conference, we also visited AIG’s new Ark Encounter. It’s an amazingly full-sized accurate replica of Noah’s Ark on the outside, and, thanks to Kentucky building codes, a slightly less accurate replica on the inside (I’m sure Noah’s family didn’t have clearly illuminated exit signs and a 198B.6401 certified sprinkler system), but the craftsmanship of the timber inside is worth the trip.
I visited the workshop in January of 2015, just before construction began, and while designers were feverishly working on exhibit plans, there was nothing built. To see a completed Ark only 18 months later was simply astounding, and everything inside, from the living quarters to the the animals to the dioramas of the pre-flood world, is fantastic. I was inspired to create a little flood-based art of my own, and I used the week after the conference to do a quick animation.
This week our darling little boy turned one year old. For the past month I’ve been reminiscing about all the things I was doing and feeling a year ago leading up to James’ birth. Part of me misses that anticipation and excitement, and I definitely teared up a bit looking at pictures of 1 day old little James, but every new milestone and age has so much joy (and I definitely don’t miss all the pregnancy aches and pains)!
Watching him learn new skills and develop into his own little person has been even more fun than I imagined. James has to be one of the most outgoing, cheerful, smiley, and social babies I have ever met. He exudes enthusiasm and a zest for life and exploring, and nearly always has a smile on his lips and a bounce in his little steps, whether he’s playing on toy cars with me, or climbing on armored cars with Daddy.
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:
Heidi and I recently saw the new Jungle Book film. I may be a CNC Machinist by day, but I’m still an animator by night, and a Kipling fan, and an amateur Disney historian, so I was very eager to watch this retelling of the classic story, even if only to see the animation and other technical details. And what details!
First and foremost, the new movie is a visual masterpiece. The design, animation, lighting, and rendering are just plain incredible. It should be noted that almost everything in this movie that is not Mowgli is completely computer generated. All the backgrounds, nearly all of the plants, and every single animal. Ironically, while this film is one of Disney’s many “live-action” retellings of their animated classic films, this one actually has more animation in it than the original.
The animators at MPC and Weta Digital should be credited with two amazing feats: creating believable wild animals, and making those wild animals into believable emotive actors. The engineers also deserve credit, because after the animators created the skeletal animation, every animal got a soft-body muscle stimulation on top of the bones, a cloth-based skin simulation on top of the muscles, and finally a dynamic fur and hair simulation on top of the skin. Every bit of water the animals touch and every bit of foliage they brush against is also simulated. Everything in the film feels real.
Recently my sister-in-law Nadia, told me about a new program she was trying out to help her manage her projects, to-do lists, shopping lists, and other lists. We often “talk shop”, as Nadia’s husband calls it, and swap ideas on household management, everything from organizational tips, menu ideas, and helpful computer programs or apps, to laundry solutions or child training ideas. It’s often very helpful to bounce ideas off of someone else who’s in a similar stage of life, and get ideas on how to do what we’re doing faster or better. This program is called Todoist, and it has been a game changer for me.
I love lists; I love making lists, and I love checking things off my lists even more. I’m constantly trying out new methods of list-making for various projects and seasons of life. I’ve used Excel Spreadsheets, Word documents, Apple Reminders, Google Keep, Evernote, random mobile apps, post-it notes, notebooks, scratch paper, and more. At various times in my life, all of these have been helpful, but this new system tops anything else I’ve used thus far. I don’t use this as a substitute for Google calendar (where I put actual appointments like dental appointments or dinner at someone’s house), but it’s perfect for all those daily things I can’t forget to do or the house would fall apart, but there’s no exact time for them.
Here are some of the most helpful features: