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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Astronaut Eggs

A couple weeks ago I ate some scrambled eggs. These weren't your normal run-of-the-mill scrambled eggs, though. From the photos you can see that these eggs were special. They were "Perfectly Portioned for Weight Loss" or so the container claims. However, this isn't what made the eggs so different from regular eggs. These were in a convenient wax-coated paper container.

Our church acquires lots of food given to it by several organizations. Most of this food is redistributed through the church's food pantry called Hand Extended Ministries, but sometimes they have a surplus of food that is either past its expiration date or the food is one that has to go quickly before it goes bad like fruit, bread, etc. About a month ago, the church was given four over-sized pallet boxes full of this diet food. There were probably 50 different kinds of food available, but all nutrisystem brand. I wasn't too choosy. I just grabbed a bunch that looked interesting. The scrambled eggs sounded gross but intriguing nonetheless. I had to try them.

Upon getting home with them I was considerably less brave. However, I finally came around when the intrigue became too powerful to contain any longer. I did what all good cooks do and read the entire directions before taking the first step. I opened the package and found powder (see photo). "What?", I thought. I'm not sure what I had been expecting, but it wasn't powder, I guess. Feeling like I'd come too far to turn back now, I added the water as directed and stirred. After the first 30 seconds of penetrating the soupy mess with microwaves, I took it out to stir again, again as directed (see photo of soupy mess).

I put it back in the microwave for its second 30-second session of radiation injections, but this time I was sure that the whole project was a flop. Nothing was going to happen and there was no way that I was going to be drinking some disgusting gritty orange liquid. I needed to lose a few pounds, but this wasn't even the motivation to eat this stuff in the first place. So, just as I was deciding to turn the water and garbage disposal on, a strange thing happened. I spotted a solid bulging mass of fluffy eggs rising out of the container inside the microwave like one of those black snakes we would watch on Independence Day when we were kids. The very moment that the counter reached zero I jerked out the miracle eggs and took a photo. But even with my cat-like reflexes and my top-of-the-line camera (I must be in a hyphenating mood or something) I was still unable to capture the mass at its amazing climactic peak. It quickly retracted back into the cup not unlike a scared turtle (see fluffy turtle-like-retracted eggs in cup photo).

After dishing out the eggs they looked, felt, and smelled like regular scrambled eggs. So, without hesitation, I salted and peppered them and forked a fluffy clump of black-snake-fireworks-yet-turtle-retracted-like-once-upon-a-time-powdered eggs into my mouth. They were pretty good. And, a decent portion, I might add.

4th Anniversary

Yesterday was Jodi's and my fourth anniversary. We had a nice day that was full of nontraditional anniversary events, but nice all the same.

After getting out and hitting several stores to look for or pick up various items in need, we came home to put the kiddo to bed who had just fallen asleep in the van after telling me that he was sleepy. While the boy napped, I removed a nail from a van tire and plugged it. Then, I put the replacement part that we picked up that morning from Lowe's on the toilet upstairs getting it back into proper functionality. Then, after we both showered and primped ourselves into two stunning individuals, we headed over to Jennie's house to drop off Lyric with probably the most spoiling babysitter he's ever had.

Jennie's gracious gift to us was a free meal at Hemingway's. Our plates were full of Chicken Curry, Fried Catfish, Fried Shrimp, BBQ Ribs, and Jodi's favorite, Crab Legs. It was a great meal followed by some thrift store shopping and finally a little bit of relaxation before calling it a day.

It was a great day, the 1,441st day of our marriage. I'm really looking forward to the rest of my life with Jodi.

The Power of Discussion

What is discussion? Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines it as "consideration of a question in open and usually informal debate." This definition is starkly different from when, in 1828, Noah Webster himself defined it as "Debate; disquisition; the agitation of a point or subject with a view to elicit truth; the treating of a subject by argument, to clear it of difficulties, and separate truth from falsehood." These two very different definitions almost sum up what I am addressing in this blog today.

In 1828, Mr. Webster, recognized that the point of discussion was to reach truth. I also like that he adds that it should clear away any difficulties. When reading this it becomes clear that discussion was a way to answer people's questions leaving no falsehoods behind to later confuse them. Participants could bring up all the "but what about" and "but I heard" rebuttals they wanted to and still, in proper discussion, those would also be answered so that all that was left was truth to be easily understood.

Discussion today is much different. The modern definition speaks nothing of truth. Some may say that it is implied, but I would argue that it purposefully omits it. The old definition mentions truth twice but the modern one only suggests that discussion is an open group consideration of a question. I looked up the definition of 'consider' because I thought maybe it meant in some way to answer or to arrive at truth. But, neither was the case. It simply means to ponder, weigh in one's mind, seriously think about, etc. So, I wonder what happened. Are people no longer looking for answers to their questions. How is it that people find satisfaction in the assumption that all their questions about life are simply rhetorical ones?

It's no secret that every generation wants to be better than the one before it. It's also common knowledge that most teens rebel at some point or another and get it into their heads that they know more than their parents do. I suspect that many in this modern generation have become convinced that they can become better than their parents' generation. Some people are teaching that this is a real possibility and that it starts by simply rejecting virtually everything that they have been taught by them. From there, words are redefined for we don't even want to assume that we can arrive at a better solution if we use the same definitions or the same words. Old terms are made out to be bad while new ones are glorified. Since truth in most cases has been widely understood, let us start to question it again but this time lets not arrive at an answer lest we only come full circle and be at the same truth again. Or, worse yet, we arrive at the wrong answer and we are proven wrong later.

Ahh, the safety of the non-answer. This is when you just fail to answer a question. Some people do it more slyly than others by not making it apparent that they are doing so, but others are just frustratingly obvious. Some people purposefully fail to answer questions so as not to be proven wrong, so as not to lose the support of those who won't agree with them, and to seem thoughtful and open-minded. It's how you remain accepted by the largest number of people. People tend to accept those who refuse to say anything that challenges the beliefs of those who listen.

When in a discussion group, it is important to see that the discussion is moving towards truth. Otherwise, all that is happening is a merry-go-round of rhetorical talk. Is there more that happens, though, besides the lack of finding truth. Could it be a descent instead of a lateral move? Let's see what the Bible says. 2 Timothy 2:14 states, "...Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen." Verses 16 and 17 go on to say, "Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene." Verses 23 through 26 say, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

It seems pretty clear that there is indeed a descent. Discussion that leads to anything besides truth can, in fact, lead to destruction. A man named John MacArthur put it very well when he describes the empty words that John speaks of, "Paul also called it 'empty', which means it has no benefit--it yields no return. But empty words soon become evil words because empty words are like a vacuum. I have a vacuum in my garage I use to clean the car. Once in a while it sucks up something I don't want it to, like a pen or some coins. That's what happens with a vacuum--whatever gets near it rushes in. Empty words become evil words because they suck up sin. Useless talk on useless matters becomes wicked talk. Words that are not of God soon become unholy words."

The Emergent church embraces discussion without answers. They recognize that answers divide people. But, they do not want division. They want unity. This sounds good on the surface, but truth does divide as Noah Webster points out in the definition of discussion. He said, "separate truth from falsehood" when he states the goal of discussion reaching truth. Truth will divide people into two groups; those who are right and those who are wrong. We cannot leave truth behind for the sake of peace.

An emergent church blog I found when Googling 'power of discussion' brought me to this blog site. The author is describing a youth "church service" where she tries something somewhat new with the kids and lets them discuss a specific grouping of verses in 1 Corinthians. She is excited about the results which were that the kids discussed it mostly by themselves. She admits that she had no control over what was being said. While I agree that students learn better through interaction, they cannot be left to determine what is right and what is wrong on their own. Having God's Word open to them during the discussion is good, but the Emergent Church is notorious for disallowing anyone to arrive at an answer. They say that everyone's opinion has value, but that is only as long as that opinion leaves room for self-doubt. Furthermore, it's the opinion that is elevated above biblical truth.

False doctrine is any doctrine that does not align with the biblical truths. Many of these false doctrines will seem biblical but they only adhere to certain principles and ignore the biblical context that defines them for what they mean. Paul goes on to say in 2 Timothy 3 that there will be times in the last days when people are terrible. These terrible people will have a form of godliness, but will deny its power. He instructs us, "Have nothing to do with them." He also says about them that they are "always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth"

In chapter 4 he says, "For the time will come that men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."

Speaking of myths, ever heard of walking the labyrinth? A quick Google search will show this ancient practice as symbolic of the journey to the center of yourself. It puts self above all which is an ultra-humanistic view. The bible says quite the opposite and states that we must die to self and be born again through Jesus Christ. And that, even after being born again, we are not ourselves but God's.

History Right In Front Of Us

Last night Jodi suggested that we take a walk to the park. It was nice, but Jacob hurt himself when he fell while rollerblading on the way there. Then, he took out his wallet while swinging and forgot to pick it back up before we left. And, it wasn't there when I went back to look for it at no surprise to me. It didn't have anything like money or identification in it, but it did have three pins on it that he recently acquired at a garage sale. He really liked the pins and was upset at their loss. So, maybe just the three of us had a good time and Jacob could have done without it, but I think he learned some good life lessons out of the short trip.

Upon our return, Jodi then suggested that we go down the street to the house on the corner to see if the older couple mowing the lawn knew anything about the owner of the house whose lawn they were mowing. See, an elderly neighbor had told Jodi that our house was built by the father of the man who lived on the corner. Since, we have wanted a chance to get to speak with him to find out more about our house's history. But, we would never get that chance because we never saw him.

The couple we introduced ourselves to, Bob and Sue, told us that the man died a couple months ago and he was Bob's father. She went on to say that Bob's grandfather was a doctor and hadn't built our house but was good friends with the man who did. They also surprised us with the fact that they used to own our house and lived there from 1964 to 1982. On top of that, Bob acquired it from his parents who owned and lived in the house for around 40 years before him. Bob then shocked me with the news that it was his father who had the second floor added on. I asked, "You mean that the second floor isn't original?" He said, "Oh no. It was originally a one story home."

We invited them over to tour the house now since we've changed everything including the floor plan. Only Sue took us up on it, and it was really cool to see her face and her reactions at all that we have done. She couldn't believe how different it looked. She was almost speechless while standing in the kitchen. It turns out that the cabinets, flooring, and wallpaper that we had removed out of the kitchen had actually been their remodeling job back in the sixties. Which led Jodi to bring up what I had found behind the cabinets. You might recall a few blogs back that I mentioned finding a ribbon in perfect condition commemorating a St. Patrick's Day celebration at the Shrine Mosque here in town. I posted a picture of it and here it is again. It turns out that the ribbon belonged to Bob. Sue immediately recognized it as his. It's been 30 years since it fell back behind the cabinet that I tore out. We let her take it with her to give back to him.

I didn't go upstairs with them for the tour, but Jodi and Sue spoke for a while about what Sue remembered about the house. She told Jodi that Bob's mother's bedroom was in our dining room and that she rented out the upstairs bedrooms to college students. She told us that even years after Bob's mother had passed away that students would show up inquiring about renting a room.

Overall, we found out a smorgasbord of interesting facts about our house from her visit. They gave us their phone number so that we could invite them to our centennial party this year for the house. She went away telling us that she would look through her photos and try to find photos of the house. How exciting would that be?

Here are some of the facts that I now know about our house: Our house was built by the same man that built several others on our street in which we can point to. It was a one-story house originally which answers the question about whether or not it was built with electricity. It wasn't. It was also lacking a bathroom which, I think, answers the question what the concrete slab at the back of the property is. It's an outhouse or the foundation for one anyway. I cleared away most of the dirt that was covering it and found the edges. It measures about 3' x 5' and right in the middle on the backside is a circular patch of rough cement. The rest of the slab is relatively smooth. I'm thinking now that it was a slab for an outhouse and when they removed the outhouse building they filled in the hole with cement and just left the slab intact. Since the house was only a single story to begin with it answers the question why the subfloor goes clear underneath the staircase. From the basement stairs, you can see that it looks as if they cut a hole in the subfloor to add the basement staircase. But, I couldn't figure out why they would need to add the stairway when there was an obvious need for one. Well, now I know that there wasn't. The basement, then, had no stairway to it from inside the house. I wonder now if the basement wasn't added later. I've heard that it wasn't uncommon for people to dig out a basement out of their crawlspace. That would certainly answer the question of why the foundation only goes so far and then there is a cement poured ledge all around with the exception of the cinder block retaining wall that separated the basement from the crawl space. When did they start making cinder blocks anyway?

I really look forward to getting to speak with Bob and Sue again. I'll have many more questions for them next time.

The Megapixel Lie

By now, everyone in America has at one point or another heard the term 'megapixel', but for most people it remains a technical term that has little meaning to them. Most people do understand the basic definition, but have been purposefully deceived into what that actually means.

A megapixel is simply a unit of a million pixels. Easy enough, right? With this in mind, a 6-megapixel camera has the ability to take photos that are made up of 6,000,000 pixels. It would be easy for one to reason, then, that a photo with 6,000,000 pixels is pretty clear with lots of detail. While this is sometimes true, it isn't usually the case. Let me paint a picture for you: Sue sees gorgeous artistic photos online on a professional photography website. She decides that her 3-year-old 4-megapixel camera just can't get those kinds of shots and upgrades to a brand new 10-megapixel one. Excitedly she slaps some batteries in it and goes to town. Then, the disappointment comes in slowly that the pictures look uncannily like the ones she was taking with her old 4-megapixel camera. Sound at all familiar?

My fictional Sue is among the masses who have been duped by the industry into thinking that that they needed to "keep up with technology" and continue to buy the next biggest and brightest camera, specifically the one with the higher megapixel count. It is true that the higher the megapixel count the more detail you can find in your photos which allows you to blow up the photo to a huge print size, zoom way in on your computer, and crop the photo to a smaller size without losing clarity. However, there are many other factors that play a very large role in your photos clarity.

The first is camera shake. We all do it. Tripods don't. When we are taking photos in bright sunlight the shutter speed is so high that our minimal camera movement is rarely caught in the photo, but indoors or in any lower light situations your slightest little breath while shooting can blur your photo at a level you might not even notice until you do want to blow it up or zoom in. As a matter of fact, most photographers get this when they depress the shutter button. Just like a rifle can slightly be pulled to the right while pulling the trigger a camera can be shaken to the point of a blurry photo just from the shutter button being pressed. This kind of blurring is sometimes obvious, but most of the time people don't notice it because they don't print photos at poster size. Some cameras have image stabilization (IS) inside of them and they are the ones to get. It's called something different with every camera manufacturer and works differently in all of them as well. Some of the stabilizers are built into the attachable lenses and others are built into the camera itself. They are specifically designed to enable the photographer to shoot using slower shutter speeds and retain the crisp photo that without IS only would have been possible with a faster shutter speed. Some of these systems allow you to shoot with a shutter speed up to 16 times slower without losing clarity.

The second is lens quality. If you've ever had the opportunity to use an expensive Canon, Nikon or similar brand SLR camera and also have experience with cheap off-brand cameras then you know what I am talking about. I still have a Kodak camera that was a very high end point and shoot camera. It still is actually. I bought some cheap attachment lenses for it from and while they did serve a purpose there was some pretty bad blurring that the telephoto attachment gave the photos. The center of the photo would be in focus, but the outsides almost had a motion blur quality to them. The pictures looked alright, but were clearly amateur. The Kodak lenses were great and brought back great clarity, but the off-brand attachments lenses were made with cheap glass. So, unfortunately, buy name brand with cameras. Those companies have a name to keep up with and refuse to ruin their reputations with professional photographers by putting cheap glass on the market (even the low-end market) with their name on it.

Thirdly, the sensor plays a huge role in the quality of the photos. Without film, the sensor is the eye of the camera so naturally you want one with good vision. Some sensors are more sensitive to light than others and can capture photos in lower light situations better than their counterparts. Others are made cheaply and will wind up with dead pixels in them that leave small black dots on every photo you take. Some sensors capture color well while others will either be dull or will mis-read color. Still some will add lots of noise to a photo for no apparent reason. Just like with lenses, name brands will help you avoid those poorly made sensors. So, when you see a 20-megapixel camera on Ebay with 10x optical and it has the 'Buy it Now' option for $25 try not to get too excited. If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. Don't buy it if it's a Toshniokisha brand or something else you cannot pronounce, either.

The megapixel lie was created so that companies could produce cheap cameras with a great big sensor and make a small fortune in the process. The truth of the matter is that most people don't need anything more than a good quality 4-megapixel camera. The output pixel count for one of these photos is 2304x1728. What most companies don't want you to know (so they can continue to convince you that you need a better camera) is that the human eye can't make out the pixels at 60 ppi (pixels per inch). So, let's do the math, shall we? This means that the aforementioned
4-megapixel camera can take photos that can be printed at 38"x29" and still not have pixellation seen. When was the last time you needed to print a photo larger than this? So, as long as that 4-megapixel camera has all the things we've talked about earlier, then there's no need for most people to get something else despite what the market will tell you.

Take it from a guy whose been lucky enough to see several of his photos wind up on billboards. You don't need more megapixels.

Lyric Showing Off Some Skillz

Yesterday, Jodi recorded Lyric and he performed wonderfully for the camera. In recent months this has become difficult since he wants to see the result of the recording almost immediately. That's the con of digital cameras, that children want to see the photo sometimes to the point of not holding still for the photo to be taken. On the other hand, seeing the result immediately make smaller children understand better what you are doing and some get excited that they're going to see themselves soon. This excitement makes the video or photo better.

It's funny to me to think that when I was a kid there were no digital cameras for immediate results. We understood that when we smiled for the camera we probably would never see the results of that smile. It's just one more way that technology is attempting to calm our insatiable appetite for immediate gratification. I wonder if patience will still be around in another 20 years when there will be entertainment everywhere where there is possible waiting to take place.

I read an article not that long ago, that was talking about an advertising company that had started placing small flat-screen TVs atop gas pumps. They explained that the amount of potential customers to view the commercials playing was a very high number. They also explained that gas pumpers had the highest ratio of dispensable income compared to virtually any other shopping experience of similar volume. I found that to be extremely interesting. They, then, pointed out that it's always a boring experience pumping gas and that if there were a screen showing virtually anything on it that people's attention would be fixated on it.

So, this company has already begun placing screens on gas pumps and has had no trouble at all finding advertisers to pay big bucks for airtime. What a concept.

I'm not sure how I got off on this subject. Lyric's cute isn't he?

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