But First, Pray

Elijah’s school has a charity auction every year. Last year I made coasters with the school logo on them. This year I thought I’d make a sign since those are so popular. I ended up with a sign that says “but first, pray”.

I didn’t want to just make a painted sign. I wanted the words to stand proud of the surface. A laser cutter would be the right tool for the job, but I don’t have one and our maker space is closed while the pandemic rages. I bought a handful of cheap 1/16″ CNC bits assuming that I would break a few of them in the process.

My first attempt was cutting everything out of MDF. That worked ok for the large “pray” word but the smaller individual letters didn’t hold up. The MDF wasn’t strong enough to hold together at that scale. I then made them out of 1/4″ poplar and they worked fine. I sanded and painted everything, but then I realized that I didn’t have a great way to keep those tiny letters stuck on the wood. I was nervous that one little bump might knock some of them off. After trying a few things, I decided to use my Cricut to make a stencil for the individual letters and then I glued on the bigger word.

I finished it off with a keyhole slot on the back so that it could be mounted easily on a wall. The keyhole bit I have is a 1/4″ shank so normally I put a different collet on the router in my router table, carefully measure and align everything and then pray that it all works. This time I realized that I could just stick the keyhole bit into my CNC and manually drive the machine to get the cut exactly right. It was so much easier!

The end result looks pretty simple but it took a ridiculous amount of time, especially when spread into the tiny amounts of free time that I’ve been able to devote to it. Hopefully it raises a few bucks for the school.

College Ski Trip

I heard that my nephew was going on a ski trip with some kids from his school and it reminded me of a college ski trip. In the spirit of writing down stories from my life, I thought this might make a good entry.

I was very much on the fringe of the group that was going. I knew one person well and maybe had seen a couple others in the group of about a dozen or so guys. I had only been skiing a couple times and decided that I’d try snowboarding for the first time.

On the trip up, we were in a caravan of cars and we got pulled over. We weren’t speeding or anything so it was a bit odd, but our driver started crying. Yes. He was crying in a car full of college guys. The officer said he pulled us over because they had reports of a group of guys sticking their heads out of a sunroof. Someone in our car kindly pointed out that our car didn’t have a sunroof and we were on our way. The officer wasn’t wrong though. It was someone from a different car in our group.

The ski event itself was… painful. It was my first time snowboarding and I had zero lessons. I spent most of the day by myself (since I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t keep up) and most of the day was spent falling down. I remember the next week of sitting in those hard desk chairs being pretty painful.

As we were driving back from the ski resort, one of the drivers noticed he was having trouble with his clutch. We were staying at someone’s relative’s house and the dad/uncle/grandpa/whoever showed him how to drive a manual transmission without a clutch by matching RPMs. It was enough for him to make the few hour drive back to Purdue but I wonder what his transmission looked like at the end of that.

The night after skiing, we had a bunch of sleeping bags and air mattresses on the floor of the living room. It was a loud, smelly place to sleep but somehow I still managed to stand out. When we woke up in the morning someone said, “Hey Ben, how did you sleep?” “Fine… why?” Apparently I had been sleep-walking (not an uncommon occurrence for me). I had grabbed a blanket and was holding it over the window yelling about blocking out the aliens. Great.

I can’t imagine doing something like that trip as an adult but when I got back I thought the whole thing was awesome, and I learned a valuable lesson: skiing is better than snowboarding.

Microsoft Include

Microsoft has been making big strides in diversity and inclusion. There have been some amazing conversations happening and these open and honest conversations provide space for asking tough questions. It’s such a difficult topic that touches every area of our lives and comes with a lot of valid and invalid preconceived notions, but the only way we’re going to work through it is by talking about it.

This year Microsoft is going to open some of those conversations up to the public for free. You can register for the Microsoft Include 2021 event which happens on March 17.

I highly encourage you to sign up and listen especially if anything in this post has given you a bad taste in your mouth, if you’ve already dismissed this with a political reaction, if you are afraid to talk about the subject, or if you want to help but don’t know how. We may differ dramatically on how to fix the problems, but gathering together to learn and listen will hopefully shed a new light (or more light) on the situation as it exists today.

COVID-19: Day 342

The infection numbers are finally coming down around us. They’re coming down to the levels we had leading up to Thanksgiving. Those were already high but at least we’re heading in the right direction.

I continue to be impressed with my company’s response to the pandemic. Along with from providing direct aid and support for researchers and leading the way with dashboards to share the facts, now they’re opening up their unused buildings as a vaccination site.

On the home front, Elijah had his second COVID test. I almost wished I had some symptoms so I could at least do it with him. This one was worse because he knew the pain that was coming from the test, but he was a trooper and we survived. The negative test eases our own nerves but it also helps his school to know that there’s nothing to worry about on their end. Thanks to his school’s administration and the cooperation of all the families, there have been zero cases of COVID spread within the school.

It has been awesome to hear from those of you getting your vaccine shots. I now know two people who have received both shots! A new vaccination dashboard from the AI For Health group at Microsoft is fun to watch, at least for first world countries. Washington is lagging behind a bit, but we have 4.1% of the population fully vaccinated and if we keep at this pace we’ll hit 20% by the end of April. My dose is nowhere in sight but I’m happy to stay home while people who need it more get their shots. I’m very interested to watch how the infection rates change as the vaccinations become more prevalent, and I’m also curious about how we’ll get this spread to the rest of the world.

Personally, these last few weeks have been some of the hardest weeks of this whole ordeal. I’ve learned how to handle COVID within my family, as a member of the community, as an employee, and as a parent at Elijah’s school. The major missing piece is that I have not learned how to deal with COVID as a leader in my church. I’ve written and erased a mountain of text here, but it boils down to the fact that I’m a sinner making choices in a sinful world about how to share God’s Word with sinful people. The only perfect decision is to be kneeling before God in prayer receiving forgiveness through Christ.

James 1:2-5 Consider it complete joy, my brothers, whenever you fall into various kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces patient endurance. And let patient endurance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives it to all without reservation and without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

The Church’s One Foundation

I’ve really been enjoying the new piano software! I’ve been tweaking the settings so that I can play live through my laptop without any noticeable lag. Hearing the beautiful piano sound makes me realize the shortcomings of the default sound that comes out of the piano.

My recording process was a bit different for this song. I recorded video and MIDI, processed the MIDI into a WAV file and then combined the video and audio to make the final video. This piece is “The Church’s One Foundation” and it’s arranged by Cindy Berry. (Full lyrics)