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Archive for December, 2019

Some things you learn through “book learnin'”, and I’m not adverse to that since I can’t be everywhere at once or in one life time. But learnin’ by experience is better when you can get it. I have a friend who is a very talented artist. He produced several insightful and intriguing stippling pictures (check out “Business on Parade”). And at one point when I was underemployed, he gave me a little work. One of the projects he gave me for some graphic design work he was doing was a stippling of a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet from white graded to black. I guess we would produce that by a digital method now, but he said at the time that the random process of poking a pen at a paper produced a far better picture.* I think that I remember it taking about 10 hours overall.

On my way to church this morning, I was praying that God would give me something to make the Sunday School lesson more interesting. As I drove the interstate the drizzle (or mist) slowly intensified and then later let up. I turned on the intermittent wipers to a slow setting, but I did not increase it as the rate of drizzle increased. I began to notice what reminded me of stippling on the windshield and every 5 seconds or so it got wiped off and started over. Artists that stipple use different sizes of pen tip for a given picture or on different elements of the same picture. The windshield stippling was far more complex in its randomness, utilizing multiple droplet sizes and some streaked upon impact. The effect was quite interesting. To our eye randomness brings some level of pattern. Three dots even nearly in a row look like a line and catch the attention. Four dots can suggest a square, rectangle, or rhombus. But looking at the individual dots is not the point (or points? ha ha). One must step back to see the artistry. The windshield would still look random, but when an artist is involved the result can be detailed beauty and communicate mood.

There is a metaphor here. Our lives are stippling drawings. Each strike of the pen can seem random for which we are thankful or annoyed or perplexed or overwhelmed or exited or challenged. But from these many seemingly random events God is designing a beautiful picture that reveals the Artist’s involvement in the process. Randomness alone cannot produce ordered beauty.** God is giving glory to Himself and benefiting us and others through controlling each strike of the pen on the paper of our lives. No unforeseen events ever mar the picture He is making.

I began the Sunday School lesson with this illustration and then in Luke 9 showed how Jesus was sovereignly controlling every detail of the events before, during, and after the feeding of the 5000, including what details were recorded. Jesus tested Philip’s and Andrew’s (indeed, all of the disciples’) faith when He knew what He was about to do. Every detail filled out the picture He was painting. Before the big reveal of everyone satisfied and 12 baskets full of leftovers, the questions and commands must have seemed trying and confusing. God, give me patience and perseverance as the pen contacts my paper in seemingly random spots and ways, knowing You are in control and this process is for Your glory and my good.

A stippling ball

A Stippling Ball****

*Yes, I enjoyed making that predominantly “p” phrasing.

**Crystal patterns in rock or snow flake form randomly but have underlying chemical design. I could get into the whole evidence of design argument, but you should read my blog entries because it is a frequent theme.

***In fact, the painting seemed to be focused on an extended metaphor of bread. Let’s talk about that another day.

****It would take more time and far more dots to make a good picture of a ball and its shadow, but I feel like it represents the intended purpose.

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On our hike at Thanksgiving I challenged a great-nephew and niece to prepare for a backpacking trip next summer. Besides asking them to take regular brisk walks around their neighborhood, I offered to do day hikes building up to the overnight trip. Yesterday we went on the first of those trips: Sterling Gap to Mt. Sterling in the GSMNP. When they arrived at the meeting place, they had a cousin in tow. So the four of us enjoyed the strenuous 2 mile hill (~5.2 miles total) and the views from the ~50 feet fire tower. It was just cool enough to make walking comfortable and just overcast enough to make for better contrast in viewing distant peaks. We had interesting conversation and enjoyed the transition of the tree types as we increased in elevation. It’s time to get in shape for the next bigger hill!

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Waterville Hydroelectric Facility: Why does a hydroelectric facility have a chimney?

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The exit is in Tennessee but the hike is in North Carolina.

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Let do this!

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It simply is not 0.4 mile between the trail intersection and the tower at Campsite 38.

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Low elevation outliers

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Big outliers

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Spruce among decidies

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A great niece learning about Galax

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A break in the trees

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Incline

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Almost there

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Notice how it tappers, though you must know that perspective exaggerates the effect

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Mt S BM (Wow, 1928!)

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A camera with the proper filter would better catch what it really looked like with even more distant ridges appearing.

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NE more or less

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We made it. I wonder how any panes of glass survive in what must be a very windy site.

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Enjoying the view?

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Main ridge at Guyot to Cosby Knob

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Campsite 38

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Interesting perspective

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Do you see my great-nephew? Notice how perspective from here makes the tower appear straight-sided.

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After lunch relaxing

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Silly cousins!

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Can you tell which one is his sister?

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At the top and still smiling

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Survived many a storm and wind

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Black (or Wild) Cherry

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White Ash

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Beauty everywhere you look

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Almost down

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I don’t know exactly what happened to my old chainsaw. It lasted 20 years and I rarely went easy on it. One day it just locked up. When I went to buy a new one there was a polarity of prices for seemingly similar saws. I asked why. The answer was basically that you pay $700+ for one of similar durability of the old one or you could pay ~$400 for one that was assured of wearing out in less than half the time. The store manager also said that all of the chainsaw companies have gone to this model: professional/homeowner grades. In the case of the homeowner grade, there is a predetermined and decided lack of quality that is sufficient to last a few years but not many. The plan is to sell more chainsaws at an affordable price, knowing they will have to come back for another one in a few years. The term for this “weak link” or introduced design flaw that results in an “artificially limited useful life” is planned obsolescence.

My wife has a nice crockpot that she uses regularly. It seems quality enough and I see no reason why it shouldn’t cook food for many years to come. However, recently the plastic handle on the glass lid broke. When I looked at it, two terms came to mind: cheap and planned obsolescence. If taken reasonable care of, there is little to break on this crockpot, except for the lid handle. If you can’t get the hot lid off of the crockpot safely, then you can’t really use it. Most people would throw the crockpot away. Some small percentage, probably less than one percent, might search for the part and buy it on Ebay or from the manufacturer. An even smaller percentage of people would make a durable replacement handle. I am part of this latter demographic, this smallest of tribes. The handle needed to be durable, easy to handle for my wife, and look at least reasonable.

About the time this all happened I was teaching my Biology students about cells. I had forgotten to discuss a term for programmed cell death- apoptosis. So, the day I took the lid and my materials into school to make the handle in the wood shop, I presented the parts before my classes with an explanation of planned obsolescence and my plan to reuse rather than recycle the crockpot. Then I proceeded to a segue into apoptosis. Cells have a weak link, as it were, to prevent them from going rogue, i.e. cancerous. Obviously, it doesn’t always work, but it prevents harm far more than allows it. 

I had a student ask me if that means that “death really is a natural part of life.” I replied that on the contrary, the programmed death of cells when external or internal cues of stress arise is a way to prolong the organism’s life at the expense of individual rogue cells. Oh, that corporate entities were so altruistic and sacrificial, but perhaps I am looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. Perhaps the crockpot is the sacrificial cell that rescues the corporate organism by not outlasting its economic value. After all, whose survival are we concerned about here?

At any rate, planned obsolescence in cells is a good thing. I guess it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “stressed out”. Check out my new durable handle.

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Chicken is done!

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Custom made, prime, aged, ergonomic hickory wood handle from a tree where I grew up!

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On the occasion of my 38th wedding anniversary yesterday,
I dedicate this poem to my good and loyal wife:

In sickness and in health
In poverty or wealth
Commitment I have made
Firm covenant was laid

Living love makes it sure
By God's Spirit made pure
The harder times become
More strength to overcome

Not in us two resides
With tempting, troubling tides
The strength to soldier on
With practice kindness hone

I don't know what to say 
My actions hurts betray
To quiet service go
When good feelings don't flow

But you make no mistake
There's far more here at stake
God's will and His glory
Bound up in our story

I love you more each year
Troubles make it more clear
Losing you would be hard
Like a painful glass shard

And now we onward trudge
No one but God our judge
Work and love together
Nothing our joy tether

Be more affectionate
More kind, compassionate
Consideration grow
Keep irritations low

How can we do these things?
When all hell at us flings
Troubles and trials each day
Our hearts and flesh fillet

I'll tell you beloved spouse
The love that's in this house
Comes from our God above
Spirit of peace and love

I'll never cease to care 
To grow in love and dare
To strengthen what is ours
'Til all see love flowers

We hope for better things
Our future with joy rings
With hope that ever clings
Until our spirit sings

In heaven we will be
Where God's face we will see
Not married at that time
But love will be sublime


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