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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!

Christmas (A Celebration of the Creator)

It floors me that I grew up in church, here in the "Bible Belt" even, and somehow never put it together that Jesus was around for Creation Week.  Perhaps, I was just a bad listener back in the days of Bible School?  I'm not sure.  At any rate, I've come to realize the truth of Colossians 1:16.
For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.
With Christmas only days away, I thought it only appropriate to have a Christ-centered blog to write.  I think that most of my confusion on the eternal Jesus started with my understanding of Christmas being the birth of Jesus.  Naturally, I treated His birth as being His beginning.  But, scripture shows that this was not so.  John 1:1 puts it this way.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
So, Jesus created the earth and everything in it.  The Holy Trinity is definitely a little difficult for us to understand at times.  This verse says three things:
  1. Jesus was in the beginning already.
  2. Jesus was with God.  (in other words: distinct from, yet connected to)
  3. Jesus is God.
This blows our little finite minds.  But, this is a pillar of Christian (and Biblical) theology.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all the same God yet distinct from one another.  1+1+1=1 in this case.

Recently, I saw this article on Google News.  There's been a lot of speculation about life on Mars in the scientific community and all sorts of things are being tossed around as possibilities.  This article tried to summarize what the scientists all agree upon.  I don't know if you can make out the text in the photo but is says this:

For lifeless chemical compounds to organize themselves into something alive, scientists generally agree, three sets of things must be present.
■ Standing water and an energy source.
■ Five basic elements: carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus and nitrogen.
■ And time, lots of time.
I would like to point out that which has been pointed out by many already and yet is still not very well known.  Invoking "lots of time" as a supposed catalyst for creating life is transferring Creation from God to a mindless randomness.  It is, in essence, creating a new god.  Because, to believe time and chance created all we know, is done so with faith, faith in time and chance.  It robs the true and only God of Creation of the glory that only He deserves.

What I find ridiculous is that anyone with any amount of education could so easily fall for the illusion that time is a solution to bettering one's chances. 
A simplified model can make the somewhat difficult model easier to understand, so I'll give you a simple one.  Suppose there are three overturned cups like in the photo to the right and I put a coin under one of them.  I ask you to choose one.  Obviously, you have a 1 in 3 chance in choosing the one with the coin.  Suppose you got it wrong.  Then, without changing anything, I ask you to choose again.  Now, your chances have become better because, as an intelligent being, you won't pick the same cup you did previously.  Thus, you will have increased your chances of choosing the cup hiding the coin to 1 in 2.

Notice that this model has a requirement of an intelligence being present in order to have an increase in the odds of success.  If the exact same scenario ensued, but I made you turn around while I rearranged the cups after you initially got it wrong, then your odds would remain 1 in 3 regardless of how many times we repeated the exercise.

Now, with 1 in 3 odds, it is likely that sooner or later you'll pick the correct one.  But, that doesn't transfer to impossible odds.  This is where people get confused.  If your chances are 1 in a million, and those chances never get any better, it's a very safe bet that you'll never get it right regardless of the amount of time you dedicate to trying.

Scientists that propose time does in fact help the chances of life creating itself, have to first propose that there is a chance that it could happen in the first place.  In 1953, the Miller-Urey experiment attempted to prove the possibility and they failed.  With all the advances we've made since then, it's still not ever been shown that life could be created by time and chance.  Yet, articles like this one show that somehow, despite all knowledge and logic, the scientific community still insists that it is a possibility.  Why?  Because, all of their models are based on the assumption that it is.  And, wouldn't that turn out to be a foolish waste of resources?

The author of the article makes it known that "scientists generally agree" that "time, lots of time" can replace intelligence in the equation.  Furthermore, all involved assume that water, an energy source, and a list of some basic elements all happened to exist in a suitable environment just to start this impossible scenario.  They don't even bother to try to explain where the elements originated, how they were organized or why they adhere to natural laws of molecular structure.  For that matter, where did the laws of nature originate?  Can laws of physics organize themselves?

Attempting to create origin models without God the Creator only leaves one having to build models on assumptions that defy all known logic.  Make no mistake.  God the Father created all things through Jesus Christ.  So, this Christmas, celebrate Jesus who not only was born in a manger, not only died on a cross, not only substituted himself for all of our shortcomings so that we could be reconciled to the Father, but also created you, the earth, and everything in it.

Health Insurance (Wealth Redistribution)

I know I've discussed this before, so sorry if you've heard it before.  But, I've got to get something off my chest.

We live in a free country, so we're told.  But, I have been threatened to be fined by my government if I continued to decline purchasing health insurance for myself.  I went without health insurance for years and I'm no worse off then I was when I had it.  And, neither are my fellow citizens.  I didn't use any medical services nor did I require any.

Now, maybe you're asking sarcastically "Well, aren't you lucky?".  My answer is "no".  I'm not lucky.  I'm healthy.  I choose healthy eating habits and healthy foods and pay for them with my own earned money.  I use products to maintain my health that I purchase with my own earned money.  I feed my children good foods and encourage physical activities for them some of which are organized and I pay for with my own earned money.  I limit my children's time to be inactive.  I'm an active guy because I choose not to be an inactive slob.

I'm a responsible human being with my health and with the health of those in my charge.  How am I rewarded for this?  I get used.  As demonstrated here in this snippet from, my government "mandated" (made mandatory, a.k.a. forced) me to buy insurance.  Why?  Because, they know I won't use it.  The money I pay in, therefore, can be used by the insurance companies, to pay for other people's bills.  It "dilutes" the risk (reduces the risk, a.k.a makes more profitable) for the insurance company.

So, insurance companies, who already make up a billion dollar industry, are going to be able to make more money with less financial risk.  According to this same site, "Fortunately, the insurance market will be different by then (2014), ... insurance prices should begin to decrease." (emphasis added).

So, we healthy people are forced to join in the fray so that they can use our funds.  If we don't join in, they will forcefully take our funds.  Either way, they take our money and give it others.  But, at least the price will come down in 2014, right?  Because the market will be different by then, right?  No.  As the House of Representatives were told by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius back in March, "Health insurance rates in 2015 are likely to increase."  And, they have.

I'm Color Blind

I've never blogged about this before.  I don't tell very many people this.  It's not that I'm ashamed or anything, but I have experienced that when someone learns that I am color blind the very next thing that happens almost invariably is they begin to point at things in the room and test me.  And, not surprisingly, they always pick out the most primary colorful items.

I'm not offended by this or anything.  I completely understand how color-blindness is a fascinating thing.  The struggle for me is how to explain as someone who is color blind to someone who isn't how what we see is different.  I see colors.  And, I can make out primary colors quite well (I call them Crayola colors).  But, it's the shades of colors that start messing with me the most.  My ability to differentiate between colors exponentially decreases as colors break away from being primary and start taking on shades of other colors.  Take the example above.  I found this photo on a guy's blog about color blindness.  Both images look exactly the same to me.  I mean, exactly the same.  As a matter of fact, I would believe that they were exactly the same if not for the comment section on that blog where people were blown away that the author couldn't see any differences in the two images.  Apparently, that author is even less color blind than I am because he said he did notice a slight difference between the red shirt in each photo (duller in the right image), but that he wouldn't notice that difference if the two images were not right next to each other for comparison.  I, on the other hand, see no difference even with him pointing it out.

I found this test on Google images.  I can tell you that I see an obvious 25 in the upper-left circle of each set, a fairly easy 56 in the middle-right circle of each set, and a very-slight 20 (or maybe 28?) in the upper-right circle of the left set only.  Aside from those, if there is a number in the other circles, I am unaware of it no matter how hard I look.

So, you may be wondering how this has affected my life.  And, I can tell you a few things for which I know I am at a disadvantage.  I hate clothes shopping.  Before Jodi graciously agreed to marry me, I bought almost exclusively jeans and t-shirts.  I understood that you could always match those two items so that was my entire wardrobe.

Laser pointers don't work with projected PowerPoint presentations.  Presenters are very fond of standing off to the side of the screen and saying things like "This and this makes this over here do that thing you see right there."  The audience then all in unison says "Oh, okay" and start scribbling notes about the amazing thing they just learned because they must have seen a bright glowing dot moving to the tune of the presenter's voice.  I just growl under my breath because the screen is full of information and I have no idea what is being talked about.  There is no dot.

Also, red text on blue background, or blue on red, or red on green, or green on red, or orange on green.  Or many other ridiculous color combinations are illegible.  I can't see them.  And, seriously?  Some of them I can make out that there's something there but I get almost dizzy trying to read it.

People ask me sometimes how I tell between a green light and a red light when I'm driving.  Well, the red one is on top.  Sheesh.  They are right to ask though.  I can't nonchalantly glance at the light while texting 'LOL' to my bestie.  I have to actually look at it to see which light is lit.  Some small towns will have just a single blinking light and I have no way to distinguish the blinking red from a blinking yellow.  Likewise, late at night, even in Springfield, Division Street will all go to blinking lights at a certain hour.  I know which ones are blinking red and which ones are blinking yellow by memory.  Yes, I have driven right through a red one before.

Back in the 90's, those cheap low-profile disk cones became popular to use for soccer practices instead of the traditional cone-shaped tall ones.  I could spot the tall ones by their shape and their height above the grass.  These stupid things were invisible unless I stepped on one.  I can't count the number of times I would dribble out of bounds and wonder why everyone was looking at me like I was stupid when I just kept on going like the ball was still in play.

Some electronics don't properly communicate their intended message to me as they were designed to do.  For example, I have two battery chargers for my Canon camera batteries.  I prefer to use the one that has a charge indicator light and a separate full indicator light.  The other one has one indicator light that shines amber while charging and green when charging is complete.  Maybe, everyone else distinguishes those two with ease, but I don't.  I have to study it for a few seconds and then make a judgement call.

I found a pretty cool website for a company that makes sunglasses that supposedly help correct color blindness.  They range from $380 to $460.  I took their test and got these results.  Notice that I tested as a "Strong Protan"?  Also notice that their recommendation has a disclaimer that these glasses may not be fully effective for me as a strong protan.  I wouldn't ever buy a pair of color-blindness-correction glasses, but it would be neat to try a pair out to see what they do and if they help at all.

Les placards sont finis!

Translation:  The closets are finished!

This makes the third time that I have blogged about these closets and for good reason.  We started this project a year and a half ago.  It didn't take but a day or two and I had the closets all framed up nice and solid, but it would take 18 more months to finally be able to sit back on our bed and admire their completion.  But, as they say, something worth having is something worth waiting for.

I spent the weekend quite determined to get all the trim work done.  And, I'm proud to say that it is, in fact, done.  I was a bit nervous to start cutting into the crown trim.  It can be a trick to make sure that you get the angles just right, but I've come to the conclusion that all my previous trial and error on previous projects has served itself well.  I have now come to the place of cutting crown with confidence.

I'm sorry for the grainy picture.  It's certainly not worthy of a true "after" photo.  But, rest assured, I will make sure to get a proper one soon that we will use for our listing.  In the meantime, it works for the purpose of this up-to-the-minute home improvement blog update.

A Proper Entry

One of the troubles we had concerning the entry to the backyard from the driveway was that there was a considerable downhill slope from the driveway.  The garden wall with its arched top door made for a nice entry point into our backyard but the slope made you feel uneasy particularly since it was mostly exposed dirt littered with gravel.  It certainly wasn't worthy of what should have been a grand entrance.

So, to remedy the situation, we dug out the area and poured some concrete curbs which will double as a retaining wall holding back the higher ground of the driveway while also serving as a proper step.

I like doing concrete even though I have little experience with it.  The most time I spent on any significant project was during my first trip overseas to Haiti.  I traveled with Global Go Team to help pour piers and a concrete slab floor for the first building that was going in to the soon-to-be campus of Shepherds House Ministry.  The experience was invaluable and life-changing for a ton of reasons too numerous to attempt to list.  I even learned some practical tips on how to work with concrete.

I'm not done just yet.  I need one more 80 lb bag for a finish coat which I will pick up on the way home from work today.  I plan on using it to smooth out the sides of the vertical walls and to create a slight slope towards the brick patio so that this area won't hold any water.  It wouldn't be a very good entry if it just became a puddle every time it rained.

Jodi and I plan on writing all our names in the concrete along the back of the curb.  We haven't really signed anything on this house, but thought that this masterpiece of ours deserved to have an artist's signature on it somewhere.

The Man Nobody Knows

I'm currently reading The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton.  It's an interesting book, not just because of the content but also because of the history behind this particular copy of the book.

I'm fairly sure that it's a first edition printing although I could be wrong.  The book was printed in 1925 which makes it 90 years old next year.

I acquired the book just after Christmas of 2012.  I took some money that was gifted to me and bought several boxes of books from a book reseller in Ozark, MO.  I asked him where they came from and he said that he buys books in bulk from estate sales mainly but also from garage sales and flea markets.  He groups them together by genre and sells them as large lots on Craigslist.  I think I paid him $80 for over 200 books.

Inside this book, I saw the name 'Naomi Bradley' written carefully along the top of the first page.  Soon after that, I found a small scrap of old newspaper inside that someone was using as a make-shift bookmark.  It had been in the same place for so long, in fact, that the old newspaper had slightly stained the page it was holding so faithfully for its owner.

The newspaper scrap had Joplin written on it, so what was I to do next but start Googling things out of pure curiosity?

I found three results from my searches.  One was from that mentioned Mrs. Naomi Bradley in a 1925 obituary as a survivor of her 12 year old sister.  It also listed another surviving sister.  Of the three sisters, she was the only one already married, but I surmised that she was still pretty young.

I also searched "Dr. F. E. Tipton" from the newspaper clipping and found that he was in practice in Joplin from 1917-1934.

The last thing that I found was a photo of this headstone in a database of the cemetery plots in Joplin, MO.  This explains how I found myself to have become the owner of the book in subject.

From all my findings, the following is the story that I have decided to tell that is entirely fabricated, admittedly, but based on a true story:

Mrs. Naomi Bradley was a beautiful young woman of 18 who had no trouble finding a husband with a bright future. She was the second child born into her southern-Arkansan family but joyfully played the role of "second mother" to her two younger sisters.  Life had been good growing up in El Dorado, Arkansas which had benefited from steep financial growth from the oil industry moving into town in the late teens.  Unlike her grandparents, due to the vast job opportunities from the oil company, her parents' generation had been able to provide their children with many privileges including higher educations.

1925 had been quite the year for Naomi.  She turned eighteen, graduated high school, moved to Missouri with her older brother where she met, fell in love with, and was quickly married to a 16-year-old heir to a 600-acre farm in Sarcoxie, MO.  She was still living on the high of a newlywed and hadn't been down to see her family in Arkansas since before her June wedding.

It was now the second of November and she was beginning to make plans for a trip to her parents' for Thanksgiving.  Her new husband, who had never left Missouri in his life, was looking forward to the adventure of the trip.  Naomi was beyond ready to spend quality time with her family, especially her sisters.  Despite both sisters being bride's maids in her wedding, she didn't get to have much time with them due to all the busyness of her big day.  All this was going through her mind as she was washing the dishes from lunch and passively watching the dogs chase squirrels up the pair of trees in the backyard outside the kitchen window.  The sounds of the dogs barking and the scratching of the squirrels claws in the tree bark was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing in the foyer.  The news of her baby sister's sudden death rocked her like an earthquake.  And, like an earthquake can immediately remove one's faith in the earth's stability that had gone without question previously. the news left Naomi doubting if life was everything she had always believed it to be.  The days were long after that as if somehow the pendulum of the grandfather clock in the parlor had suddenly decided to defy gravity and the earth took notice and matched its slowed pace.

It was now Sunday afternoon, Nov. 22nd.  Thanksgiving would be on Thursday and they were to leave early the next morning for El Dorado, though the prospect of visiting with family brought more fears than relief.  Gone was the excitement.  She now worried that she wouldn't be able to hold it together.  She felt guilty for choosing to moving away.  She knew it wouldn't be the same as holidays before and her mind wouldn't stop imagining scenarios that brought even more emotional pain.

A knock at the door came.  She hadn't even noticed the sound of the 1922 Wills Saint Claire pull up the driveway yet there it was outside the window sitting beautifully in the late afternoon sun.  She recognized it as Judy's family car from the church she had only just begun starting to attend in early October but to which she hadn't returned since receiving the life-changing phone call.

Naomi let Judy in who had come alone.  She tried to play the role of a good hostess, but Judy required no formalities and just embraced Naomi which somehow unleashed an ocean of pent-up grief.  After a long time and a good cry, Judy presented Naomi with the book she had just bought from Osterloh's Bookstore in Joplin, The Man Nobody Knows.

This book helped Naomi deal with some of her misconceptions about God, about Jesus, about what she had always believed to be the nature of her existence.  It wasn't a book about death or pain or even comfort.  It was a book about knowing Jesus.  And, that, helped Naomi come to terms with her sister's death and where and with whom her sister really resided.

With the significant impact the book had on Naomi, the book never left her possession until after her own death 78 years later when she was reunited with both her sisters who had preceded her to the Kingdom.

Brick Repurposing

One of the things that I wish I was more diligent about is taking before photos.  Jodi and I both are pretty bad about just jumping into a project without remembering to take that photo of what it looked like before our project.  So, I'm really glad that it happened to dawn on me while I was taking this chimney apart that I would like to have a photo of where it came from.

To recap the last blog:  I ran out of bricks while I was laying our new brick patio.  Jodi successfully negotiated us some free brick from our neighbor's house that is under renovation.  I'm getting the brick for free, but I have to dismantle the chimney myself.  I've only worked on it for two evenings now.  The first evening, I was able to take it down from just below the roof line in the attic to just below the ceiling of the first floor.  Last night, I got it taken all the way down to the floor level.

I still have to take it down in the basement, but I think that I'll come back to it at a later date since they're on a break right now on the house project anyway.  I have enough brick, at this point, to finish the patio which is super exciting.  I'll work on that when I get home this evening before Lyric's soccer practice.  There's a small chance that I could actually get all the brick laid tonight.

Saturday is a neighborhood cleanup day where I can throw out some garbage that no one would want.  I'm hoping to be all prepared for that so that Saturday morning I can get it all hauled off.

Then, through the weekend, I plan on completing the following tasks:
  • Dismantling the old hot-tub-turned-sandbox for disposal
  • Cutting up the old fascia boards for disposal
  • Filling with sand in between the newly laid brick
  • Pouring the concrete for the entrance at the garden door
  • Cleaning up the backyard
  • Cleaning up the driveway where the brick was stored for years
 The house is getting closer and closer to being done and I'm really looking forward to reaching that point.  It will be here before we know it at the rate in which we are working.  Stay tuned for a completed patio picture!

Scoring Some Much Needed Brick

Jodi scored some brick for us to finish our patio!  The house next door is getting fully renovated.  It's been gutted down to the studs already.  And, yesterday, they started tearing off the roof and redecking it.  Jodi spotted that the chimney was gone from sight so she went to ask about it.

It turns out that they just dismantled it down below the roof line because they would no longer be using it as an exhaust vent and didn't want to have to roof around it if they didn't have to.  Jodi asked if they were taking it down any further to which the owner replied that they weren't.  They gave her the brick that they had taken down and she asked for them to let her know if they run across any more.

With the bug in the owner's ear, he changed his mind and told Jodi that I could take the chimney all the way down to the basement if I wanted the brick.  Um... yes, please.  So, I started working on it yesterday when I got home from work and managed to get the chimney worked down to just below the ceiling of the first floor.

It should go faster now that I have it accessible from the first floor.  I was working in the attic which is not very fun to do in a gutted house.  Carrying two 5-gallon buckets full of bricks while balancing on 2x4 ceiling joists makes me feel more like a circus act than a home renovator.  But, the budget home renovator does what is necessary to get projects completed.

The best part about all this?  With this latest score of brick, it should be enough to complete the last leg of the patio.  AND, it means that I can say I didn't pay anything for any of the paver bricks that I have laid on our property.  Equity, sweet equity.

Why We Love The Church? To Read Or Not To Read?

I recently read Why We Love The Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.  It's a pretty good book, I suppose.  It's not my favorite of theirs, but it's good.  I have read Why We're Not Emergent by the pair which I really liked, as well as one of Kevin DeYoung's solo works, Just Do Something, which was also a good little read.

There were parts of the book that I really appreciated being talked about, but for the most part, I found that the title was a bit misleading.  The book wasn't about "why we love the church" so much as it was a lengthy constructed argument against authors who have sprung up seemingly everywhere with their "why we left the church and why you should to" books.

That said, I do appreciate the defense.  I get tired of hearing about the "evils" of the church and how everyone is more like Jesus somehow when they refuse to step foot inside an official place of worship.  Those that write and speak about these things do touch on some truths.  I'll give them that.  Sure, there are issues with all churches.  But, the expectation of perfection in any organization is nothing short of completely unreasonable.  And, if these people who have left an organized church (noun) to "liberate" themselves with how church (verb) should be done applied those same requirements of their respective organized employers, they would most certainly find themselves needing to quit their jobs to take up some entrepreneurial enterprise.  I know I've never seen a perfect company.  Perhaps, applying those same requirements to their grocery stores would drive them to garden and farm themselves?  Banking?  Deciding what automobile manufacturer to purchase from?  It's a very deep rabbit hole.

To me, it appears to be an issue of grace.  Do people have any for others, for their church leaders, for their congregations?  Requiring perfection is lunacy.  God gives us grace since we aren't perfect and He's our example from which to refer.  It's only sensible to give grace to others.

To close, I enjoyed reading the book.  It needed to be written, I believe.  And, truthfully, I didn't need to read a full-length book listing and expounding on reasons why I love the church.  I'd love it anyway.  So, it's alright that the book was mostly dealing with people's reasoning for not loving it instead.  After all, you can't get past your stumbling block until you deal with it first.  You could hand someone a list of reasons for liking potatoes but if they have even just one thing that they don't like about potatoes and you don't address that one issue, the list will make no progress in changing their mind.  So, in that regard, perhaps the title wasn't as misleading as I originally thought.

The book is a good read.  Probably my favorite part is the following excerpt.  It shows the logical inconsistency with the arguments against organized churches.
“The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and run after-school programs, and bring the world together in peace and love. They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a hundred complex, resource-hungry things the church should be doing. They don’t like the church because it is too hierarchical, but then hate it when it has poor leadership. They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee shop with other well-educated thirty-somethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets. They want more of a family spirit, but too much family and they’ll complain that the church is “inbred.” They want the church to know that its reputation with outsiders is terrible, but then are critical when the church is too concerned with appearances. They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political. They want church unity and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact that they have left to do their own thing because they can’t find a single church that can satisfy them. They are critical of the lack of community in the church, but then want services that allow for individualized worship experiences. They want leaders with vision, but don’t want anyone to tell them what to do or how to think. They want a church where the people really know each other and care for each other, but then they complain the church today is an isolated country club, only interested in catering to its own members. They want to be connected with history, but are sick of the same prayers and same style every week. They call for not judging “the spiritual path of other believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people,” and then they blast the traditional church in the harshest, most unflattering terms.”

Brick Patio (part three)

Well... I ran out of bricks.  I haven't counted yet, but I'm estimating that I'm in need of about 200.  And, to make matters worse, for the first time in quite a while, no one is selling any pavers on Craigslist.  So, unfortunately, it appears that our patio is just going to have to exist for an undetermined amount of time with a large hole on one side.

(Sorry about the photo.  It doesn't do the patio justice.  There is a layer of brown sand over the back two-thirds, the initial lime sand layer on the section in the bottom-right has been compacted with water and the new section bottom-center hasn't been compacted yet.  So, this may be a little difficult to know what you're looking at.  For that, I apologize.)

What bothers me about running out is that just a week or so ago, I started wondering if we would run out of good complete bricks before I was done.  I hopped on Craigslist to find this ad.  I even screenshot-ed it because I considered that I might wind up needing some.

But, alas, now that I know I need some, the ad has been taken down.  The product is sold, no doubt.

So, I'm reaching out here.  No, I don't expect that of my humble readership, I will have someone with exactly what I am looking for.  However, maybe my expectations are wrong.  So, if you happen to have any quantity of red clay solid paver bricks lying around, please comment here and let me know how to get a hold of you.

With four days of rain starting tonight in the forecast, I might not have done much to it anyway.  I'm very eager to get it done so that I can quit blogging about a partial patio, among other obvious reasons.

Brick Patio (part two)

The patio is coming along quite nicely.  Today, I finished going through all the used bricks that still had mortar on them.  It was quite a chore but I got all the mortar knocked off of all of them.  I wound up with a nicely sized stack when I was done.  I didn't figure that a lot of the bricks would be useable, but almost all of them were.

I started laying some of them, but I knew that I would be limited in what I could do because I only had a very small pile of sand left with which to work.  I will go back to American Landscape and Quarry supply on Monday and get another half bucket of sand.  That should be about the right amount to get the remainder done.

While I was laying bricks, Jodi was spreading the brown sand over the top of the bricks that have been down for a while.  We have been waiting on a good rain to come and cement down the lime sand that I have been using as a base.  The lime sand is especially good for this because it gets pretty hard and compacted rather easily.  We didn't really want their to be white sand in between the bricks, but we knew that the first good rain would compact everything that had already been laid and allow new room for a surface layer.

I can't help but just stand and stare at it.  One of the downsides of performing a home improvement project is that since you're in the thick of it throughout every step, you kind of miss the "wow" factor.  It's like not really noticing how fast your children are growing because you see them everyday.

But, as you can see from this photo, we are dangerously close to being done.  The perspective doesn't really show it, but it is probably more than 3/4 of the way complete.

It cracks me up how long we have been planning all of this outdoor space.  It was December of 2008 when I uploaded this Google Sketchup 3D rendering of our plans.  And, even before I made this Sketchup drawing, we had discussed, planned, and drawn out a rough layout of what you basically see here.  So, for at least 6 years, we've had this pictured in our mind's eye.  In that regard, it's nothing short of amazing to see that we have actually done it and accomplished what we dreampt up so long ago.

Diamond In The Rough

Sometimes, I get to looking through pictures of mine and I see one that makes me realize that I have a great story that I need to write down before it's forgotten.  This photo is one of those.

It was a couple years ago.  I was about ready to start laying whatever flooring that we were going to do in the newly finished attic.  I started looking around Craigslist and found one ad that looked a little promising.  The ad didn't have any pictures (which is a great way NOT to sell something on Craigslist).  It also had very little information (again, NOT conducive to a buyer's market).  I don't remember the exact content but it basically said "pile of hardwood flooring from old farmhouse, south of Nixa - $30".

I called the number and asked the young woman who answered if she knew about how many square feet of flooring she had.  She didn't know.  She went on to tell me that there had been an old farmhouse on their property and someone, about 20 years ago she was told, had pulled up the hardwood flooring and put it in the barn before tearing the house down.  They lived in a trailer on the property next to the barn.  I asked if there was any way to send a photo of it.  She quickly texted me two photos.  It was hard to tell how much there was, but I knew it was a fair amount.

I headed down to get it straight away.  The barn was a total mess.  They had been using it for storage and from the looks of it, so had the previous tenants.  She showed me the stack poking out from underneath piles of stuff, I confirmed I wanted it, paid her the $30, and commenced to unburying it.  It turned out to be a whole truckload!

I spent a few days going through it and removing all the nails.  With that done, I started laying it in the attic.  A couple days into it and about halfway done, I noticed that I had eaten through about half the load.  I started to wonder if I had enough to finish the 330 square foot room.  I started praying about it as I was working.  "God, please let it be enough."  Days later, I nailed down the last board.  With the room completely floored with beautiful antique hardwood flooring, I had 6 pieces left totaling less than a square foot of flooring to spare.  It was the perfect amount.  Thank you, Lord!

Motorized Camera Slider

I'm a bit of a nerd.  I know it and I'm not ashamed.

Recently, I watched a video on YouTube that was a compilation of time lapse videos.  The video was gorgeous from beginning to end.  It wasn't something that you could just stop half way through.  The most amazing thing about time lapse videos is seeing a lot in a small span of time.  No one wants to watch grass grow but when someone figures out how to cram 3 weeks worth of growth into one smooth 5-second video no one can look away.  So many cool things are happening around us all the time but at a snail's pace.  Time lapse shows us a new way to look at things.  It reawakens our sense of wonder.

One thing that made this time lapse video stand out above the others that I've seen was camera motion.  About 30 seconds into the video, it hit me.  "How do they do that?!"  I quickly answered my own question as I realized that in order to add smooth camera motion (pan, tilt, or slide), one would need a motor to control the motion.

My mind started running, but before I inadvertently reinvented the wheel I jumped on YouTube once again and found a video of an inexpensive DIY motorized time lapse camera slider.  Thanks to this fellow nerd and his willingness to share his design, I feel both empowered to build my own motorized time lapse slider as well as find and proudly wear a winter coat with a large fur-lined hood.

First, there was a trip to Lowe's to pick up the angled aluminum for the main rails, the all-thread for the dive shaft, and a bunch of various pieces of hardware for the legs and connections.  I already had some leftover flat bar aluminum from another project.  I built my wheeled camera platform completely from random materials that I already had.  I did have to buy a universal ball joint camera mount, low-speed electric motor, and AA battery pack from

I also still need the gearing.  Unlike this guy, I'm not going to connect my electric motor directly to my drive shaft.  I'm going to gear mine down.  In the video he says that his motor turns at 24 revolutions per minute (rpm).  Mine turns pretty close to 28 rpm.  The all-thread I'm using is 5/16" so it has 18 threads per inch.  My slider is 4' long, but will only have a camera travel distance of about 3.5' or 42".  That means I have 756 threads of camera travel.  At 28 rpm, it would take exactly 27 minutes (00:27) to complete the camera motion.  That's not enough time to get the kind of time lapses I want to get.

This video is full of examples of the duration of time I would like to cover with my time lapse videos.  I'm looking to cover about 2 hours.  That would allow me to capture sunrises, sunsets, celestial movement, substantial work being performed, etc.  27 minutes just couldn't quite get that.  This guy's slider is shorter than mine and so he has even less capture time than that.  I think that I am going to buy a 16-tooth pinion gear and a 72-tooth spur gear.  These are used on hobby remote control cars so they're durable, readily available, and cheap.  By fastening the spur gear to the drive shaft and turning it with the pinion gear on the motor's output shaft, I am able to slow the drive shaft down to 6.22 rpm.  At 756 threads of available camera travel. it will take 2 hours and 1.5 minutes to get from one end to the other.

Another difference in our designs will be that I will have two tripod mounts, one on each end of my slider.  It will allow me to mount it in a wide range of different positions to capture motion going up, down, sideways, etc.  It will have legs just like the one pictured here so that it can be used on any flat surface, but with the added tripod mounts I can set it up anywhere.

I'm looking forward to the finished product.  I've got other things going on, so it's not a "front burner" project or anything.  But, I'm sure I will get it all put together soon so that I start setting it up and capturing some cool video.  Of course, you'll know when I have some because I'll be posting some stuff on here.

Brick Patio

As you can see, we got the ground all prepped like we wanted a couple weeks ago. There was an awful lot of prepping to do, more than I would have figured.  Jodi kept on pointing at this slightly raised area, then that one.  And, we needed to fill in some low spots that I would not have even noticed.  But, it was all good and all necessary.  I recently read an old proverb that said "If I had ten hours to chop down a large tree I would spend seven sharpening the axe."  There's a lot of wisdom and applicability in that.  I don't usually prescribe to that philosophy very well, though.  Jodi, on the other hand, is pretty good at it so she helps balance me out.

Just like the front walk (which I'm only just now realizing I never blogged about) we got all the brick for free! I've added a photo of the front walk here for your reference.  That project was made possible by the old MFA building in Elkland, MO.  I was driving by it on my way to go pick up the children from my mom's house.  I always liked the building.  It was the only red brick two-story building in Elkland.  It was overgrown and boarded up.  When seeing it, I would usually brainstorm about what could be done with it if I was somehow able to acquire it.  In the condition it was in I didn't figure that the owner of it would have to be offered much to be convinced to let it go.

This particular day that I was driving by, it happened to be being demolished by a large excavator.  I stopped and asked the operator if it'd be alright to come back that evening and grab some brick from the rubble.  He gave me permission to do just that and I came home with a nice load of brick.  I didn't have a truck/trailer combo able to haul a large load so I negotiated borrowing one from my friend, Nate, in exchange for a third of the bounty.

So, it turned out that I wound up owning part of that building after all, you could say.  It's also nice to know that the building, as neat as it was, will go on living, in a sense, having been repurposed into a nice entry walk for our Springfield home that is likely roughly the same age as the MFA building was.

Sorry for the blog within a blog so far.  Back to the brick patio, it's taken several evenings and one Saturday so far to get where I am.  However, I think it's going pretty well.  We are over half way done and it's looking great.  I agree with what Jodi said about it "It really ties in everything we've done in the back."  She's right.  We built a great looking deck, an outdoor closet/remodeled backyard-to-basement entry door, a garden wall connecting the house to the detached garage complete with arched doorway, and installed a proper side door to the garage.  The brick patio is what fills in the area between all these improvements.

This brick, primarily, came from a house just off North Grant.  I don't know it's original source.  This house had a huge stack of them behind their garage.  The owners had just recently bought the house and were looking for someone to haul them away.  My friend, Jake, tipped me off about them.  The other two places that I scored more brick, albeit a much smaller quantity, were from our house and from a Craigslist ad.  The ones from our house came from taking down the second chimney.  When we finished out the attic into a cool fourth bedroom, I dismantled a second unused chimney to below the floor level.  It had previously been dismantled to be below the roof several decades ago, but I took it further down to remove it from the attic altogether.  The Craigslist ones came from a demolished brick detached garage.  There wasn't much left, but I took what they had.

I should have some time tonight to continue laying more brick.  Plus, I can get several hours logged tomorrow morning.  I have no other obligations until early afternoon.  So, I think that I'll try and maximize my time.  I also have the firepit to masonry up, so I can't say that I can knock it all out, but I certainly will get a lot closer.  It will be nice to have a legitimate outdoor space around the firepit that we have been using for some time now.  I'm really looking forward to it all being complete.

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