Posted by: Mark   in Greenhouse, Pedal car

Looking back, it’s been three and a half years since I’ve posted anything out here! Two things:

First, the pedal car is still not done. I haven’t touched it since before the last post out here. It’s a travesty, because it has the potential to be so incredibly beautiful, and fun for the kids! Perhaps this summer…

Second, I’ll be documenting a new venture here soon. Lots to learn, lots of hard work left to do, but I think this one will be fun to follow, and I know it will be fun to post. Stay tuned!


Don’t shred this!

   Posted by: Mark   in Uncategorized


My paper shredder died the other day, so I briefly hunted for a replacement. I found this one and brought it home, but it wasn’t until I unpacked it that I noticed the informational graphics on it.

From the bottom up:

  • Oil the chopper things now and then
  • Shred up to nine sheets (ooooooh)
  • No hair spray or Pam
  • No neckties
  • No hair
  • No hands
  • No …. babies??!

These warnings generally result from lawsuits by folks who have done these very things, right? Oh my.


Review of Pagan Christianity?

   Posted by: Mark   in Book reviews, The Church

In this book, Frank Viola examines the origins of common traditions and practices of modern Christian churches. He traces the development of nine general areas of tradition such as liturgy, clergy salaries, and ordination, and attempts to determine legitimacy of them based on the New Testament.

In his own words, Viola’s desire is to “remove a great deal of debris in order to make room for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the fully functioning head of His church.” While the majority of this book is devoted to explaining why he believes so many current practices are wrong, he does give occasional glimpses of what he calls the ideal “organic” church assembly. The use of scripture is sparse, but may be expected in a work like this, with the  overall focus on “what’s wrong” rather than “what’s right.”

After a brief introduction, the first of Viola’s targets is the church building. He attacks the common practice of referring to the local church building as the “house of God” or the “sanctuary of the Lord.” He argues that we err when we use such statements, since the New Testament clearly identifies the individual believer as the temple of God. It is true that we habitually reference the building itself when speaking of the “church,” which is not at all what Paul had in mind when he spoke of the “church (ekklesia).” It would do us well to correct this misuse of terms. One of the more valid arguments in this book occurs in this chapter and has to do with the incredible financial overhead that a church building introduces, and the resulting inability for an assembly to deliver “real services, like ministry, mission, and outreach to the world.”

Another target is the order of worship in modern churches. According to Viola, the idea of an order of service (liturgy) originated with the Catholic Church and is “based partly on the Judaic Temple service, partly on Greek mystery rituals of purification, vicarious sacrifice, and participation.” In what I believe is one of the most flawed logical conclusions in the book, Viola determines that if a Christian gathering has a predetermined order that includes singing, prayer, a sermon, the Lord’s Supper, and a benediction, it is based on this heinous Catholic concept of a liturgy and is therefore unbiblical.

Viola devotes seven more chapters to examining other general areas of tradition and practice. There are many footnotes and external references. At the end of each chapter, he closes with a few questions that relate to the chapter’s topic, as well as his responses. The main content of the book closes with a chapter on “Jesus, the Revolutionary,” and is followed by a few chapters that include questions and answers, a summary of each of the book’s chapters, and an extensive list of notable individuals from church history with one-line descriptions of each.

Overall, Viola raises some good questions about things such as the “altar call” (originating from the Methodists in the 1700’s), the concept of a recited “sinner’s prayer” (introduced by Moody in the late 1800’s and updated by Graham recently), and tithing as a command to Christians (“Never do you find first-century Christians tithing in the New Testament.”). He points out the prevalence of an observational mindset in churches as opposed to a participatory approach, and it would be beneficial for each of us to consider how we can “do” instead of just “watch.”

Perhaps my most significant concern with the book is the assumption that the New Testament provides a comprehensive pattern for the proper way to “do church,” and anything not explicitly identified should be not be a part of our practices. There is no attempt to establish the reasons this is a valid foundational premise. This is surely not true; the purpose of the New Testament is not ultimately to serve as a church manual. We can find some specific directives (do observe the ordinances, do not tolerate heresy), but we have latitude in most areas. For example, the New Testament doesn’t address a start time for gatherings, instruments to be used with singing, attire, and many other things.

I was also frustrated by Viola’s logic in many places. One example is this statement, in the chapter on the church building: “The use of chairs and pile carpets in Christian gatherings has no biblical support either. And both were invented by pagans.”

In summary, I believe Viola introduces some good questions and points out some valid errors in the church today. We do certainly err by placing too much value on extra-biblical traditions. But his approach is significantly lacking, both in logic and ultimate usefulness. And finally, if you’re going to attempt to dismember the modern church like this, you should include more than a single band-aid chapter for the resulting wounds.



Playing with the new softbox

   Posted by: Mark   in Uncategorized

Recently I was able to get a softbox for my Vivitar 285HV, and I played with it a bit tonight. I’m so impressed with the light it gives, and am anxious to get it out of the studio and into an outdoor shooting setup. I have a ton to learn about feathering, balancing a rim light, countering light, and so much more, but that’s one of the great things about digital: you can shoot and shoot and shoot to learn!

I’ve got an image in my mind of a particular series of pictures I want to do for canvas printing, and I’m really getting close to where I would like it to be.

Here are some from tonight:



I will say that the consistency out of the 285HV seems to be a bit lacking. I saw variances of about 1/2 a stop if I fired off too quickly. It could have been low batteries (they were low), but it’s not a high-performance flash and I never expected it to be. Regardless, I don’t anticipate outgrowing it any time soon – it gives light 100% of the time (thank you, CyberSyncs!), and right now I can easily manage a half-stop variance.


July is almost gone

   Posted by: Mark   in Activities, Our children

It really seems like we were watching fireworks just the other night, and now July is almost over. We’ve stayed busy, and have really been trying to get out and enjoy the outdoors and each other as a family. We made it to Seaside early this month just for a day, and the hot weather here was completely reversed out there (of course!). We have only ever been to the coast once or twice in ten years when it was warm enough not to have to wear long pants and a hoodie. We ate too much taffy and snacked on too many pistachios on the way home, but we sure did have a lot of fun.




We were able to reconnect with some old “Beaverton” friends from long ago this month, and as a side benefit we learned about the Salmon Creek Trail and how great it is for kids with bikes. So we loaded up the truck with bikes, a scooter, and a stroller, and enjoyed a five mile walk up the trail and back with the kids (and wow were they wiped out after that!).





I also had the privilege of helping out shooting two weddings this month, and despite my bad shoes at the first one and the heat at the second, had an unbelievably good time. I hope to post some pictures from both weddings on my business site soon, after I work out the permissions with Amy.

And just last night we took a little balsa glider and a Nerf football and visited Orchard Park. And what a fun time we had! Isaiah has an amazing arm, and Jeremiah was fully engaged running around in bare feet chasing a soccer ball. Timothy, Lindsey, and I took turns launching the plane, and Tami played catch with Isaiah. I’ve got to say that it sure is fun to tickle-tackle the kids when they catch (or not!) a football!

It’s been a good month to reflect on God’s incredible grace and goodness, and to enjoy some great time together as a family.


Shooting Portland at night

   Posted by: Mark   in General

Portland is a beautiful city. A few weeks ago Dad and I got to head down to the eastern bank of the river to take some full-city shots just after sunset. It was cold and windy, but we had fun. So this past Friday night, we got right into the downtown area after dark, and walked block upon block shooting what we could find. The time with Dad was such fun, and as a bonus I was able to find some pictures! The weather was about as perfect as we could have asked for, and we both noticed there seemed to be an unusual quietness about the streets. We got to walk, talk, and snap the shutter for about two hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

As always, click on any of the images to go to Flickr to see even more pictures.






Building an MG-TC pedal car: Part 4a

   Posted by: Mark   in Pedal car

Refer to the Introduction for links to all of the posts in this project. This is a continuation of Step 4.

About a week ago I was able to get both the steering and drive systems complete, which had been a hug hurdle for me. After some brainstorming with Dad and some poking around at the Orange Box, I found all I needed.

The plans had called for a galvanized pipe for the steering rod, flattened and bent up at the tie-rod end and fixed with a pipe flange at the other for connection to the steering wheel. I had a version of this completed, but was never satisfied with the roughness of the steering. Not only was it difficult to steer, but it wasn’t particularly reliable. So I ended up using a 3/8″ diameter piece of steel for the steering rod. At the bottom end near the tie rods, I bent it up, ground the sides a bit to make some flat surfaces, and used U-bolts to fasten a 1 1/2″ x 4″ section of flat steel. The tie rods bolt to this flat steel, and there is amazingly little play in the whole thing.

I had ordered tie rods with the ball joints, but the shortest they had were 11″, and I needed something around 8″ long. I used 5/16″x24 threaded rod (or all-thread), which is great because I have enough play to allow adjustment of each wheel separately.


It’s not the prettiest steering ever created, but it works very well. The steering rod comes through a piece of scrap that I screwed to the front of the body because the original steering column hole was about an inch in diameter to fit the pipe called out in the plans. Once the grill is in place it should look much more clean.


You can see the flattened sides of the steering rod. The U-bolts I had bought were pretty small, so I had to grind the sides of the rod to get them to fit. There’s no chance they can slip or move — they’re on VERY tightly.

And here’s a poor-quality video of the steering in action. The angle on the tie rods is a lot greater than I would have wanted, but at this point I’m not willing to redo it all. The kids could care less, and I just want to get it painted!

For the drive system, I had two problems: I couldn’t figure a way to affix the single drive wheel to the 3/8″ steel axle rod, and I didn’t know how to attach the drive rods from the pedals to the crank. Although I’m not yet convinced the lifespan of this solution is all that long, I ended up drilling a hole through the drive wheel hub and the axle, and inserted an “R” clip through the holes. My concerns with this are that the hole I drilled is pretty large relative to the small 3/8″ axle, and the hub isn’t really designed to handle the torque that can be applied by an excited child. We’ll see how long it lasts. So far it doesn’t show any wear, so that’s promising.


Getting a picture of this was harder than I expected, and the sun was fading fast. In the picture above you can see the loop on the “R” clip. I still need to trim the axle, but I’ll probably wait for final, post-paint assembly before I do that. You can also see the colored label on the tire in this picture, which is another thing to fix in final assembly (all the other wheels have the blackwall point out, with the tire graphic hidden; yes, I have issues).


It’s really tough to make out the “R” clip here, but you can see the top loop of the clip on the right.

For the drive crank, I drilled holes in the drive rods just large enough to be able to slip the axle through them, and threaded them on with a washer and small pipe-band-clamp on each side. The washers and pipe clamps keep the drive rods in the same spot on the crank, and insure that the drive rods don’t slip up the sides of the crank. It’s another case of “not pretty, but quite functional.”


And here’s another questionable-quality video, this one showing the drive crank and pedals in action. Again, not all that smooth because I was trying to keep the camera steady with one hand. Also, both this video and the above steering video might give the impression that there’s a ton of friction in the two systems. They’re certainly not finely-tuned, but they really are pretty free and smooth.


Building an MG-TC pedal car: Update – videos!

   Posted by: Mark   in Pedal car

Refer to the Introduction for links to all of the posts in this project.

The past two days have been VERY productive days with the pedal car! Not since the body went together have I accomplished this much in such a short amount of time. I finally worked a very usable solution for the steering (at BOTH ends of the steering rod!), and finished that last night. Then today I was able to devote about four hours of uninterrupted time to redoing the drive mechanism, and that’s working better than I could have imagined (thank you, Dad, for your ideas and help, and Tami for letting me do it!). Once the kids drove that around for a little while, I realized I just had to get the fenders mounted. And man, what a difference it’s made having those things on the car!


I’ll update Part 4 with details and pictures as soon as a I have a chance to get some decent shots of what I’ve done. Until then, perhaps these videos will hold you over! The kids ran it for about three hours today, and the worst I had to do was add a seat support (for those with longer legs) and tighten a few nuts that worked loose.

One of the huge helps in all of this has been the comments and emails I’ve received on some of the other posts in this series. Seeing interest in this project is really pushing me to get it done, so thanks to all of you who have stopped by!



   Posted by: Mark   in Our children

I’ve been in a bit of a funk with photography lately. I haven’t been taking pictures, but have been talking myself into believing I want to. Well finally yesterday I forced myself to pick up the camera and start shooting. And you know what? It was a total and complete blast. And I remember now why I love it!








Night shooting

   Posted by: Mark   in Activities

Dad called today to see if I was willing to take a chance on the weather and head down to the river in Portland for some night pictures. Though I was a bit skeptical that it would stay dry, I knew Dad was anxious to get out and shoot, and I was eager to spend some time with him and with the camera. Timothy came along too, and we had a great time, despite the nasty-cold wind that was blowing. It almost made me wish I actually believed in global warming. Almost.

We hit the Esplanade around 7:30p, but the sun wasn’t low enough until probably 8:30 or 9:00. But when the lights came on, and the sky darkened a bit, it was tough to get enough pictures. Every photographer within 200 miles has probably shot the exact same pictures we got tonight, but that’s doesn’t make it any less fun. Dad did a lot of panos, partly because he wanted to get back into editing (lots of stitching!), and partly because I had the 16mm and he had the 24mm (thanks AGAIN, Dad!). I did keep offering, but our hands were cold and useless enough that we didn’t feel like gambling on a lens swap.

Timothy, the poor kid, was cold most of the time, but he had his Heelies to keep him occupied. And once he started seeing how the pics were turning out, he was anxious to see the next shot. I suppose the promise of a warm car and hot fries helped a bit, too. And what boy ever tires of throwing stuff into the water?

Thank you, Dad, for getting us out of the house. We need to go again once it warms up a bit!

Here are two of the shots from tonight. The first is a 20 second exposure with a pan on the video tripod I brought. The second is just a straight-up 30 second exposure. Both were at f9 and ISO 100, and both have been hit with Noiseware and minor lens distortion fixes in Photoshop.



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