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Come To Church With Me?

Have I ever invited you to come to church with me? If not, now is a super easy time for you to accept the invitation. Throughout the lockdown, I’ve been working with Pastor and our organists to post full service videos every Sunday morning at 8am.

Our church follows a standard liturgy (order of events) for each service and sometimes it can be tricky to know where we are in the hymnal, but with the online videos, everything you need to know is right on the screen. We even include the pre and post service music from our organists.

By the way, wonder WHY we use a liturgy? There are a few reasons, but one is that even if the Pastor were to give a total dud of a sermon (which would hopefully result in a chat from the elders!), we’d still cover key parts of the service like confession and absolution along with a pre-planned/organized series of readings and prayers.

Here’s a direct link to our playlist of full services on YouTube or you can find them on our Facebook page too. Or if you just want something embedded here, check out this service which talks about how faith grows in our hearts. If you watch any of these and have questions, I’d love to chat with you.

They’ll Never Believe Me

I don’t remember the source, but recently I heard some people talking about totally absurd things that happened in their lives. Things where people would struggle to believe it if they weren’t there. I came up with quite a few but here are three of my favorites:

Up the Middle
I spent a lot of my time on the baseball field on the pitcher’s mound. While pitching, one of the scariest (in retrospect) parts was the line drive rocketing back at me faster than I threw it. If you do the math, there’s less than half a second from the time a pitcher releases the ball until it reaches home plate and makes the return trip. It hurts. A lot. I feel like I remember every ball that came back at me but one from high school stands out. It was all I could do to spin out of the way in what I’m sure was a very undignified manner, but once I realized I wasn’t broken, I looked out towards center field to see where it had ended up. But nobody was moving… why were they cheering instead of chasing the ball? One of them pointed at my glove and when I looked down, there it was! As I had spun to the left, my left hand went behind my back and the ball not only hit my glove, but lodged itself in and stayed there. That’s one out, the scary lucky way.

One Down, One Million to Go
When we were kids, Dad built us an amazing treehouse. Over the years, the squirrels got a lot of use out of it. The siding on the treehouse was a smorgasbord for them. From my bedroom window, Google Maps says it was 65 feet to the treehouse. One of my windows didn’t have a screen on it and Dad gave me permission to open it up and shoot squirrels from my room with my BB gun. I could usually scare them enough to make them leave but nothing more than that. One morning, as usual, I spooked one enough that it headed back towards the woods. I quickly put another pellet into my gun, pumped it 10 times and fired as the squirrel was on a dead run across the yard, 85 feet away. My mouth dropped in amazement when the squirrel did a somersault and didn’t get up. I ran to tell Dad and he gave me a .410 to go make sure it was dead. It turns out I didn’t even need the shotgun because I had sent the pellet right through its tiny little skull.

The Kickball Shot
I don’t remember what grade I was in, at some point in grade school, I was walking across the parking lot during recess with the kickball. Someone behind me asked if they could have it. I said sure and instead of turning around nicely and rolling it to them, I punted it backward over my head as I was walking away. I turned around to see where it landed and to our collective surprise, it flew directly over the backboard of the hoop that was probably 20-30 feet behind me and swished through. These were big kickballs so making a basket at all was difficult. Doing it from that far away accidentally with a kick backwards over your head? I could try for the rest of my life and never repeat that.

Dronelink

One reason DJI sells the Mavic Mini for less than its other drones is that it doesn’t have as many autonomous features. However, they recently published an SDK do a number of 3rd party companies have added the Mavic Mini to the list of drones that can be controlled by their existing software. I ended up paying $20 for a hobbyist license to Dronelink. The price was low enough that it seemed like it was worth a try.

The main customer of the software seems to be companies who need to get aerial photos of buildings, bridges, etc but they don’t have a stable full of expert drone pilots who can quickly get the shot perfectly every time. With the software, the route planning can be done completely from a website and then executed via a phone app connected to the controller. You can also create simpler programs out in the field directly from the phone.

My old S7 was woefully underpowered and while it would run the software, the drone had barely taken off before it complained about the lag and refused to continue. My new Pixel 4a does a much better job but for a complex curving route where the gimble is constantly adjusting to keep pointed at a specific object, there are noticeable glitches. For simple routes, it seems to do a good job.

Here’s an example of a “trucking shot”. Imagine someone driving along in a truck with a camera pointed out the side. I didn’t make a perfectly straight path so you can see some points where it turns but overall, there isn’t stuttering to the movement.

Now here’s an image of a more complicated route followed by the video that resulted.

You can see the stuttering as my phone tries to chug through all the commands in real-time. I suspect that if I had one of the flagship phones, that stuttering would go away.

For $20, I’m still happy with this purchase. I want to try to plan out a route that is simple enough to capture smoothly and then run it every week or so and try to stitch it together into a timelapse after the construction is complete. I’m guessing I won’t be successful but I suspect I’ll learn a lot in the process.

Deception Pass Camping

Last weekend was our second camping trip of the summer. I was a little nervous going into the weekend because it looked a bit wet, but if it had to rain, it worked out perfectly. It rained Friday night but didn’t start until around 10:30pm and stopped before we got up. It was wet when we woke up Sunday morning too, but other than giving us a messy tent to clean when we got home, it didn’t impact our plans at all.

This was a pre-COVID-planned trip with Tim, Chelsea and the girls. It’s hard to believe that it has been over 9 years since our last camping trip with them! Our two families have added three kids since then.

Since then, Tim and Chelsea’s have also added a fantastic new camper. We’re still rocking the Cabela’s tent but it was good to us yet again. It rained quite a bit on Friday night but we stayed dry. 5 stars. Would recommend. I also recommend camping in a site next to someone with a camper. Ha!

We headed to the beach early on Saturday and then left when it started getting too busy for our liking. We spent the rest of the time talking by the fire and enjoying delicious food.

Camping can be a lot of work, but I’m so thankful for these trips. It feels like a responsible way to stay within the current guidelines, socialize with a small group outside, and get away from the house. We’re already thinking about what to book for next year and wishing we had more land to park a camper on.

Saving Money Is Cool

I’m very thankful that we added air conditioning to this house. This last Sunday it was in the mid-90s and we burned that sucker all day long. But I’m also a cheapskate at heart. I haven’t yet figured out exactly how much energy it consumes, but it’s far from free to run so I try to use it as little as possible. Here’s our basic strategy if it’s going to be warm:

  • Leave windows open the night before to cool the house down as much as possible.
  • In the morning, leave the windows open until it’s the same temperature inside as it is outside. Then close every window and close all of the blinds on the south side of the house. Turn on the AC.
  • In the evening, once the outside temp is the same as the inside temp, turn off the AC and open everything up to get free cooling from outside.
  • Run the house fan to keep the air circulating. Our vents pump more air downstairs than upstairs (they were designed for heating) so even just running the fan can cool it off upstairs.

We are PacNW wimps so we run the AC if it’s 80 or higher and we have it set to keep upstairs at 76 degrees. Our EcoBee thermostat supports multiple thermostats which is really handy in situations like this. It also has an API so I can connect to it and pull data off. I have logs of the indoor temp from each sensor along with the outdoor temp so I wrote a quick program that helps us remember when we should close the windows or open them back up. Now we get a text reminder when we need to make changes to the windows/blinds.

Here’s an example of what it looks like on a day that got up to 84 degrees. The night before, it got down to 59 degrees outside and inside it got down to 69. Around 10:30, the outside temperature got up to the same as the inside temp so we shut the windows, closed the blinds and turned on the AC. The house coasted until 5pm before the AC finally kicked on a few times until 8:30 when we shut it off and opened the windows.

Here’s a comparison to show how much of a difference this strategy can make: On Sunday, it got up to 96. By cooling the house down a lot the night before, the AC didn’t kick on until 2:35.

That night it stayed very warm so I never opened the windows until 6:30am when I got up. The house barely cooled off at all before I had to shut things up again. Monday only got up to 87 but the AC ran almost exactly the same* amount of time as the day before!

This works really well around here because even on hot days, we get a “marine push” that brings cool winds in the evenings. Another key is that we have low humidity so I only remember one or two days where we ran the AC more than normal because of high humidity.

* On Monday, I shut the AC off at 8:40pm. So to compare the two days, I took all of the AC usage up until 8:40pm on both days. Sunday’s usage was only 20 minutes less than Monday’s usage even though it was 10 degrees warmer.